Not quite a perfect balance here—but visually delightful nonetheless

READ REVIEW

THE YIN-YANG SISTERS AND THE DRAGON FRIGHTFUL

Can two sisters conquer the dragon who terrorizes their village?

The villagers of Woo are supremely inconvenienced by an ornery dragon who takes up residence across a bridge that connects their homes to the market. That same day, the Lee twins are born, one as fierce as the other is mild. Their auntie predicts that, like yin and yang, the two will be stronger together and defeat the dragon. The prose riffs satisfyingly on folklore conventions; readers and listeners will especially appreciate the repeated refrain: “Still, they were sisters. They stuck together.” Offermann’s stirring pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations create a deeply textured world, moving seamlessly from breathtaking vistas to intimate close-ups. A double-page–spread image of the two girls as infants, snuggled together in a round basket, so aptly captures the concept of yin and yang, with a smart reference to the icon. Precise harmony eludes the narrative though, which devotes much more time to the thoughtful, “oozy”-feeling Mei, who arguably could have handled the dragon alone, than to fierce Wei. And for a story so clearly informed by imperial China, missed opportunities (additional resources about yin and yang, use of Chinese characters rather than scribbles in the illustrations) and misdirection (fabricated names and spelling conventions that approximate actual places or things) leave it treading near appropriation.

Not quite a perfect balance here—but visually delightful nonetheless . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17115-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Lê’s compelling storyline is propelled forward by Santat’s illustrations, each capturing both the universal longing to...

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

DRAWN TOGETHER

The power of art takes center stage in this cleverly titled story of a Thai-speaking grandfather connecting to his assimilated American grandson.

The title page introduces readers to a sullen-faced Asian boy as he walks up to a door and rings the bell. After a traditional bow of greeting, the grandfather, dressed like Mr. Rogers in a white shirt and red sweater, wordlessly welcomes the grandson inside. In paneled artwork, the two unsuccessfully attempt conversation over dinner, with the grandfather speaking in Thai script and the boy speaking in English. Sitting in the uncomfortable silence that cultural divides create, the awkward boy finally walks away to doodle on paper. He draws a wizard with a wand and a conical red hat. Grandpa, recognizing this creative outlet, fetches a sketchbook and, surprisingly, draws his version of a wizard: a tightly detailed warrior clothed in traditional Thai ceremonial dress. The young boy is amazed, marveling that “we see each other for the first time.” The two begin a battle of imagination, wands and paintbrushes thrashing like swords. One draws in energetic colorful cartoons, the other with fierce black-and-white, precisely brushed drawings. Santat elevates their newfound shared passion into energetic, layered, and complex designs, separate and entwined at the same time. They clash with the dragon that divides them and build a new world together “that even words can’t describe.”

Lê’s compelling storyline is propelled forward by Santat’s illustrations, each capturing both the universal longing to connect and the joy of sharing the creative process. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-6760-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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