This debut’s imaginative premise leads to intermittent flashes of wit and quirky humor, but promising material is left...


From the Mango & Bambang series

A lonely girl befriends the terrified tapir she finds stranded in a big, busy city.

Mango Allsorts can leap from the high diving board, do karate kicks, and apply the Sicilian defense in chess (mastering the clarinet remains a work in progress). The pale-skinned, black-haired girl cooks buttered noodles for her father when he’s had an especially trying day. Returning home from her karate lesson one day, she finds traffic at a standstill because a curled-up tapir is lying in the crosswalk. Mango scolds the clueless onlookers, then invites him home with her for banana pancakes. His name is Bambang, and fleeing a tiger has led him far from home. Friendship blossoms: they jump from a high dive; she loses and finds him more than once; they encounter an unscrupulous Collector of the Unusual. The droll and lively opening raises expectations that remain largely unfulfilled. Lessons are learned as Mango and Bambang trade parent and child roles. The story shifts between their points of view, with occasional interruptions from the intrusive narrator, who asks readers irrelevant, uninteresting questions (“What is your nearest public pool like?”), deflating the effervescent fantasy with ho-hum realism and plodding didacticism. Yet readers will learn more about tapirs from the ample, expressive illustrations than the text. Portraying the pair as a charming duo, the art lightens the tone and provides consistency lacking elsewhere.

This debut’s imaginative premise leads to intermittent flashes of wit and quirky humor, but promising material is left unexplored. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8226-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Cool beans indeed.


From the Food Group series

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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