A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk.




From the Worldwide Stories series

This latest in the Worldwide Stories series is a culturally eclectic remix of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale from the pair who looked at Creation tales in First Light, First Life (2016) and the Cinderella story in Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (2007).

This confusing, composite variant scarcely resembles the “Jack and the Beanstalk” rendering that most North American readers might know. The author draws on the stories of 16 different countries from Indonesia to Gambia, the United States to Mongolia, interweaving them into one narrative that will require multiple reads to interpret. With monsters that include an ogre, witches, the devil, and a giant, readers will wonder where the familiar pieces of the story are. Those acquainted with the variant arguably best known in North America will recognize “Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman” but little else. For example, there are no magic beans in this retelling. Where the narrative lacks cohesion, the unifying thread is left up to the illustrator. Paschkis’ comely folk-art–style gouache paintings recall the tapestries and textiles of the various countries represented in the story, and readers will be able to discern the main character in each illustration. It’s a shame that more extensive notes than the pointer to SurLaLune Fairy Tales and Margaret Read MacDonald’s Tom Thumb (1993) are not offered for those curious readers who would wish to further pursue the divergent iterations presented here.

A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15177-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier.


Charismatic robots populate this primer for kids growing up in an era when facts are considered debatable and opinions are oft expressed loudly and without empathy.

Rex tackles a very serious topic infrequently addressed in kids’ books: how to tell the difference between provable facts and far-less-provable opinions. To do this, Rex employs a handful of colorful and chatty robot pals who run through enough examples to make the distinctions clear. For instance, it’s a fact that the blue robot has two arms while the gold robot has four. However, while they both like to dance, it’s less certain there’s a definitive answer to the question: “Which of them has the coolest moves?” When the green and yellow robots share their preferences for ice cream (yes, robots eat ice cream, just add oil or nuts and bolts), it turns into a fight that might have come off a Twitter thread (“We are getting chocolate!” “No way, buckethead!”). Via a series of reboots, the robots learn how to respect opinions and engage in compromise. It’s a welcome use of skill-building to counter an information landscape filled with calls of “Fake news!” and toxic online discourse. Rex never says that these ’bots sometimes act like social media bots when they disagree, but he doesn’t have to. Perhaps most importantly, Rex’s robots demonstrate that in the absence of enough information, it’s perfectly fine to wait before acting.

Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Grit and imagination combine to turn “No” into a definite “Yes.”


Corchin and Doughtery combine talents in this metaphorical tale of creativity, resilience, and growth mindset.

This book’s noseless, bristly-ponytailed protagonist has a great idea (never named but represented visually as a glowing egg), but like many ideas, it runs into hiccups along the way to fruition, including daunting opposition. What seemed like a simple and clever idea at first quickly meets many, many “No”s. The naysayers and critiques are heavy and painful at first and quickly become overwhelming until “No”s in a dizzying variety of typefaces litter the page. But when she decides to solicit feedback, at first reluctantly, she becomes curious about her idea and how the “No”s might help it along, turning 1,000 “No”s into one big, brilliant “Yes.” The message is straightforward without being heavy-handed: Even though feedback can be difficult to hear, it ultimately leads to positive results. The black-and-white line-drawn illustrations have a Tim Burton vibe at the start, but they grow more colorful as the protagonist’s attitude changes and “No”s pour in, expanding the allegory visually. The final, humongous, multicolored “YES” is made up of all the myriad “No”s. Characters are uniformly depicted with paper-white skin, but hairstyle hints at racial diversity, and one character uses a wheelchair. This will surely find a home alongside similar favorites from the likes of Peter H. Reynolds and Kathryn Otoshi. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.3-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Grit and imagination combine to turn “No” into a definite “Yes.” (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1919-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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