A lovely, nuanced collaboration.

ZOLA'S ELEPHANT

When Zola moves into the house next door, a young girl imagines all of the reasons why a friendship between them is impossible.

Spying a giant moving box, the narrator immediately concludes that it contains Zola’s pet elephant. Smelling toast, she imagines Zola merrily feeding her pet. In contrast, Zola is shown in a room piled with drab boxes, despondently taking tea and toast with only her pet bird for company. Each brightly bedecked fantasy about Zola and her pachyderm playmate is a facet of the narrator’s cloaked fear of rejection by the newcomer. Readers are poignantly aware, through Zagarenski’s contrasting gray compositions of Zola’s actual circumstances, that she’s lonely and bored. Finally, the narrator’s lively imaginings provoke both curiosity and courage: “I like stories… / and clubhouses / and playing hide-and-seek / and taking bubble baths / with elephants.” Her own stuffed elephant under one arm, she knocks on Zola’s door, discovering that the huge crate contains—a sofa. “Okay, so maybe Zola doesn’t have an elephant. / But do you know what she does have? // A new friend.” De Sève’s well-paced telling is charmingly abetted by Zagarenski’s layered multimedia paintings. The artist’s Klee-esque colors and signature symbols—stars, crowns, houses, bees, and more—will provide fertile ground for young readers’ own imaginings. They depict both girls as pale-skinned, the narrator with fluffy red hair and Zola with straight, black hair.

A lovely, nuanced collaboration. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-88629-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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