Sushi lovers young and old will find this book informative and delightful.

KIKUCHI'S SUSHI

On the Japanese island of Hokkaido, a fox befriends a human sushi chef and discovers the secrets of making great sushi.

When Fox first meets Kikuchi, she offers the elderly chef acorns in exchange for sushi. Instead, Kikuchi asks Fox to find him “the most delicious spring water.” Fox brings him to the deep valley, where a spring offers “the sweetest and most refreshing water.” “Sushi,” says Kikuchi, “tastes best when made with fine rice and delicious water.” Fox is “delighted by the taste of sushi melting in [her] mouth.” The next evening, Fox visits Kikuchi again. This time, Fox finds wasabi. “Real sushi needs the stinging taste of the wasabi,” explains Kikuchi. After watching Kikuchi, Fox thinks making sushi is easy. However, Fox succeeds only in making a big mess. Then Kikuchi has an idea! “Fox, your hands are small, so why don’t you try making a rice ball instead of sushi?” Fox makes the perfect packed lunch—rice balls stuffed with apricot and pickled fish eggs. Accompanying side notes discuss the history of sushi as well as other Japanese traditions such as matsuri, or festivals. Kaleidoscopic illustrations bring the text alive; rendered in delicate strokes and vibrant colors, peonies dance across Fox’s kimono, fatty streaks on tuna glint in the light, and pink shrimp mimic real life.

Sushi lovers young and old will find this book informative and delightful. (geographical notes, glossary) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-939248-17-6

Page Count: 38

Publisher: TanTan

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Pleasant but slightly pedestrian.

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF

Fairy-tale fun for everyone. (Except trolls.)

Barnett and Klassen partner for a retelling of the classic folktale about a trio of variously sized goats (all named Gruff) and a troll whose greed ultimately leads to his downfall. The story has been told many times, but in this variation, Barnett shows off for his audience by giving the troll a substantial amount of dialogue, most of which rhymes: “I love goat! Let me count the ways. / Goat rump in a honey glaze. / Goat smoked, goat poached, a goat pot roast. / Goat smorgasbord! Goat smeared on toast! / A goat kale salad—hold the kale. / Goat escargot! (That’s goat plus snails.) / On goat I’ll dine, on goat I’ll sup. / You little goat, I’ll eat you up!” It’s amusing verbal play, and librarians and caregivers who love to read out loud will enjoy hamming it up, although it may lessen the scary impact of the character. Likewise, the artwork, created in ink, watercolor, and graphite and compiled digitally, is pure Klassen, and the brown, green, and blue tones combine into an earthy setting where the ratlike troll (sans tail) fits in perfectly. But the visual reveal of the third billy goat takes a bit of oomph out of the story, as readers will be able to anticipate that this troll won’t be having goat strudel anytime soon. Fans of either Barnett or Klassen will love this retelling, but librarians won’t be sending their Paul Galdone or Jerry Pinkney retellings out to pasture just yet. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Pleasant but slightly pedestrian. (Folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-3386-7384-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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