A warm and spirited invitation to dreamland.

READ REVIEW

KANGAROO KISSES

Smiles and wild creatures abound in this playful mother-child bedtime routine.

Each of mom’s friendly suggestions to get a move on is met with a “NOT YET!” and a delaying protest: “I’m learning to fly, / with geese in the sky!” and “If I tickle giraffe, / She’ll giggle and laugh!” and “Monkey needs a squeeze… / she sleeps in those trees!” Like many celebrities who try to write for children, film actor Sen isn’t the most adroit versifier (“Elephant must floss, / to make his tusk gloss”), but she does take the drama out of the nightly ritual by making it more a game than a contest of wills. So does Curnick, with smiles all round on human and animal faces alike. The brown skins of the bright-eyed parent and child suggest South Asian heritage, and the bedroom, bath, and clothing in the domestic scenes that alternate with imagined outdoor ones in the painted illustrations are Western in style and appearance. Readers can track the child’s reluctant bedtime progress in the illustrations, as gradually red overalls are shed in favor of blue-striped pajamas and bunny slippers in both real-life and imagined scenes. One last try—“I will kiss kangaroo!”—gets a firm parental veto with “NO, now I’ll kiss you!” and a final tuck-in: “And I love you too! / Night-night!”

A warm and spirited invitation to dreamland. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-91095-900-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968)...

MONSTERS AREN'T REAL

Beaten down by a ubiquitous chorus of denials (see title), a monster suffers an existential crisis.

Surrounded by emphatic claims that it doesn’t even exist, a monster sets out not only to prove the contrary, but to establish its scariness credentials too. Alas, neither blasting the world with graffiti and printed fliers nor rearing up menacingly over a baby in a carriage, children at the barre in a ballet class and other supposedly susceptible victims elicits any response. Juggling some cows attracts attention but not the terrified kind. But the monster’s final despairing surrender—“That’s it! It’s over! I give up! ... /  Monsters aren’t real (sniff)”—triggers an indignant denial of a different sort from a second, smaller but wilder-looking, creature. It takes the first in hand and leads it off, declaring “We’re two big, strong, scary monsters, and we’ll prove it.” In truth, it won’t escape even very young readers that neither is particularly scary-looking. Indeed, the protagonist-monster is depicted in the sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations as a furry, almost cuddly, bearlike hulk with light-blue spots, antlers and comically googly eyes, certain to provoke more giggles than screams.

A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) so discomfiting. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61067-073-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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