PIRATE STEW

Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long.

This book could serve as a recruiting drive for pirates, mostly because of the hair.

Pirate hair, in Riddell’s illustrations, is glorious. It’s powder blue, or it’s peaked like twin mountains or forms crests like waves in the ocean. More important, the pirates have joyous, irresistible smiles. But the two children who find themselves babysat by these benign buccaneers are still suspicious. The pirates in this picture book don’t follow the rules of ordinary seagoers. When they make their titular stew, the ingredients include “a Jolly Roger” and “half a sack of gold doubloons.” If you eat it, they say, “You’ll become a pirate too!” The artwork also blithely veers from the text. Gaiman says that the chief pirate has gray hair, but in Riddell’s delicately lined cartoons his beard is a bright, cheerful blue, proving that no one should ever trust pirates or artists or children’s-book authors. But it’s hard to be afraid of buccaneers who shout things like “Toodle-pip!” The crew is diverse enough—in wardrobe and in racial presentation—that almost any reader can feel welcome. The children have brown skin and come from an interracial family, with a White mother and a Black father. The rhythm of the rhyming text is instantly catchy, though it’s so dense that a word and its rhyme occasionally become separated when the layout places them on different pages. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-15-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293457-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

A LIBRARY

A lushly illustrated homage to librarians who provide a welcome and a home away from home for all who enter.

A love letter to libraries.

A Black child, with hair in two puffballs tied with yellow ribbons, a blue dress with a Peter Pan collar, and black patent leather Mary Janes, helps Grandmother with the housework, then, at Grandmother’s suggestion, heads to the library. The child’s eagerness to go, with two books under an arm and one in their hand, suggests that this is a favorite destination. The books’ wordless covers emphasize their endless possibilities. The protagonist’s description of the library makes clear that they are always free to be themselves there—whether they feel happy or sad, whether they’re reading mysteries or recipes, and whether they feel “quick and smart” or “contained and cautious.” Robinson’s vibrant, carefully composed digital illustrations, with bright colors that invite readers in and textures and patterns in every image, effectively capture the protagonist’s passion for reading and appreciation for a space where they feel accepted regardless of disposition. In her author’s note, Giovanni states that she spent summers visiting her grandmother in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she went to the Carnegie Branch of the Lawson McGhee Library. She expresses gratitude for Mrs. Long, the librarian, who often traveled to the main library to get books that Giovanni could not find in their segregated branch. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A lushly illustrated homage to librarians who provide a welcome and a home away from home for all who enter. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-38765-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Versify/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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KNIGHT OWL

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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