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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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.


The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A whimsical introduction to an unusual mammal.



Most children will not be familiar with pangolins, scaly mammals native to Asia and Africa.

But neither are the animal characters who mix up the pangolin with many other animals. A talkative pangolin introduces his species with a poster. The animals, illustrated in a stylized but realistic manner, seem thoroughly confused by this new creature. In the dryly witty text, the pangolin describes his various attributes but is constantly interrupted by other animals mistaking him for a creature that’s similar in some way. When the pangolin describes curling up into a ball to protect himself, the skunk says: “Oh, I get it! He’s an armadillo.” When penguins are remarked on, the pangolin grows extremely testy. “I AM CERTAINLY NOT A PENGUIN! I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT PENGUINS! THERE ARE NO PENGUINS HERE! ZERO PENGUINS! NOT. ONE. PENGUIN!” And who should stroll in but a surfer penguin, wearing cool sunglasses and leading the pangolin’s audience to the beach. The crestfallen pangolin starts to cancel the presentation, but then a small Asian-presenting child shows up to listen, explaining, “I’m just a kid”—to which the pangolin responds with puzzlement: “Huh. Like a goat?” The pangolin shows sheet after informational sheet to an enthralled audience of one, quiet humor giving way to a small torrent of facts written on mock presentation paper. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16.8% of actual size.)

A whimsical introduction to an unusual mammal. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12740-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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