For those who want a sugar-coated, didactic Chinese New Year story.

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THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON

From the Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series

“Strong and passionate…idealistic and independent…”: These are some of the characteristics of Dragon-Year people in the Chinese Zodiac.

The 12-year cycle is well-known in North America because of the ubiquitous Chinese-restaurant placemats. This series has appeared annually to provide a back story for each animal, highlighting the personality traits that are said to influence the people born in particular years. Selecting some elements of Chinese culture, such as the Dragon Boat races that still take place today, the dragon’s power over water, the dragon’s legendary features as an amalgam of elements from the other real Zodiac animals and the pearl, a symbol of prosperity awarded at the end of the race, Chin weaves an original tale. It extols the dragon Dom’s talents and initiative as he helps the boy Bo and the other Zodiac figures work together and win the boat race, demonstrating that “dragons are energetic and shoulder responsibility well.” Humorous, motion-filled color illustrations are full of large-eyed, obnoxiously cute animals and funny-looking people that appear as if they have stepped out of an animated TV cartoon (Wood’s usual gig). None of the humans look particularly Chinese, and anachronistic elements such as a Polaroid-style photo of Dom pull the tale away from its traditional roots.

For those who want a sugar-coated, didactic Chinese New Year story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59702-028-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Immedium

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

NOT QUITE NARWHAL

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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