Art appreciation from the lens of royal Black childhood—beautiful!


From the Princess Arabella series

In Freeman’s latest Princess Arabella book, this young Black princess gives her royal friends a tour of her very own museum.

Unlike the Louvre, Princess Arabella’s museum seems to attract more children than adults, features many hands-on exhibits, and displays art that relates to the princess’s family. Portraits of Princess Arabella and her mother attract the attention of her regal friends because both have blue faces. Princess Ling calls this “strange” while Prince Jonas declares it “magnificent.” Princess Naomi says she recognizes Arabella as the subject of these portraits, regardless of skin color. The Worhol-esque endpapers even foreshadow this conversation, depicting Arabella with blue, red, pink, green, purple, and orange skin. And indeed, the wonderfully stylized images of Princess Arabella’s unique hairdo, which Freeman creates with increasingly smaller unconnected circles that give the essence of five pigtails, make her unmistakable. Other museum exhibits include huge, colorful dotted pumpkins like Yayoi Kusama’s, a giant spider that recalls Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, one dog inspired by Jeff Koons and another by Keith Haring, and a portrait of her parents reminiscent of Kehinde Wiley’s portraits of the Obamas. Docent Arabella, wearing her Mondrian-inspired dress, concludes the gathering with tasty treats and enjoys the children’s excitement for making their own amazing artwork. Like the other Princess Arabella books, this one features a cast of multicultural characters from different, though unspecified, countries. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.3-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 57.1% of actual size.)

Art appreciation from the lens of royal Black childhood—beautiful! (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-913175-06-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.


A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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