A wacky adventure that stands out through highlighting its heroine’s foibles, giving her plenty of room to grow in future...

GRILLED CHEESE AND DRAGONS

From the Princess Pulverizer series , Vol. 1

A tomboy princess wishes to become a knight.

Don’t call her Princess Serena—self-styled Princess Pulverizer is the Royal School of Ladylike Manners’ pre-eminent troublemaker, and she would rather learn to fence than dance. She begs her kingly father to let her attend Knight School. The king—skeptical due to her temperament rather than her gender—will allow it only after she demonstrates knightly virtues. “Even she knew that honor, kindness, and sacrifice weren’t exactly her strong points.” He sends her on a Quest of Kindness, requiring eight good deeds (with proof—the king knows she would cheat if she could). After her first attempt at kindness is a comedic flop, Princess Pulverizer hears of a queen whose jewels have gone missing. She deduces that an ogre must be the culprit and sets off to retrieve the jewels by purposefully getting captured. Getting out isn’t as easy as in, though. Cowardly Knight School dropout Lucas and his friend Dribble, a dragon ostracized because he’d rather cook grilled-cheese sandwiches than terrorize villages, attempt a rescue but with no success—the three outcasts must team up for a gassy escape solution. In the spot illustrations, animator Balistreri plays up the slapstick action and character expressiveness; Princess Pulverizer and her family appear to be white, while Lady Frump and other side characters are depicted with darker skin.

A wacky adventure that stands out through highlighting its heroine’s foibles, giving her plenty of room to grow in future installments. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-515-15832-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese.

WHO WANTS CANDIED HAWBERRIES?

In winter, an old man enters Cat’s Eye Hutong (alleyway or lane) with his bicycle, fitted with a rack filled with candied hawberry skewers, a Chinese treat.

He hopes to sell all so that he can buy medicine but first puts down a box of fish scraps in the snow. He calls for customers, but none appear. The charming, naïve watercolor-and–colored-pencil paintings begin to fill with feline images built into the architecture. Then a small child wearing a white medical mask (sometimes worn to prevent the spread of germs) buys a stick of hawberries, but as she walks off, the man notices a white tail peeking from her coat. Other young, masked buyers appear; all have tails, and one’s mask has slipped, exposing whiskers. Finally, a human girl buys the last stick, and when the old man asks her about the kids with tails, she informs him that only “Kitties have tails” but points up to cats on the rooftops all eating the red hawberry sticks. Careful readers will remember the fish left “as usual.” This book publishes simultaneously with an edition in Simplified Chinese, which features simplified characters and transliterated text in a small font directly above the characters. Backmatter includes a glossary keyed to intermediate-level readers, three-to-a-page thumbnails of the illustrations with English text, and note with cultural background (sadly missing in the English-only edition); further Chinese learning materials are available on the publisher’s website.

A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-945-29519-5

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Candied Plums

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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