Comic-book and lucha libre fans alike will not tap out of this semibilingual smackdown.

TRAINING DAY

From the El Toro and Friends series

El Toro needs to train for his big lucha libre match, but all he wants to do is sleep!

Poor Kooky Dooky—¿Qué va hacer? What’s he going to do? This quirky, early-reader spinoff of the ¡Vamos! series follows exasperated trainer Kooky Dooky as he pulls all the stops to get and keep El Toro out of bed. How about a big breakfast? Nope. After a gigantic belch, the sluggish luchador nose-dives under the covers. The rooster lures his trainee out of the bed with smelly shoes and a promise to go easy. Finally the training program gets results: Obstreperous chickens are caught by hand—er, hoof; the unplugged mechanical bull is dominated; the “Spiked Piñatas of DOOM” are pulverized; junk cars are crushed; and abuelas are helped across the street. Todo es listo—all is ready. Today El Toro will obliterate The Wall (pun very much intended—one of The Wall’s fans sports a distinctive blond ’do and orange skin). The unstoppable Raúl the Third brings his border barrio to rip-roaring life with plenty of humor, embedded Spanish, and Chicano cultural references. Colorist Bay’s creative enhancement of Raúl’s detail-rich frames continues their energetic collaboration. Action explodes throughout, though readers may be disappointed by the abrupt ending. In the simultaneously publishing Tag Team, El Toro and La Oink Oink team up to clean the arena following their thrashing of Donny Dollars and the Bald Águila.

Comic-book and lucha libre fans alike will not tap out of this semibilingual smackdown. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38038-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences.

LIVING WITH VIOLA

Do you have a voice in your head telling you to doubt your self-worth?

Enter Chinese Canadian Olivia Siu Leen Tong. She loves art, books, and making dumplings with her mom, but she struggles with being carefree and happy like her peers. Even harder, her parents enroll her in a new, better middle school, where she struggles to make friends. As immigrants from Hong Kong, her parents have sacrificed so much to give her opportunities, but with this come high expectations to be the perfect daughter. All the pressure causes her self-doubt to manifest as Viola, a shadowy version of herself. Viola spews insidious, undermining messages, causing Livy to fall into depression and have panic attacks. Although she finally makes some good friends and even starts enjoying school, Viola lurks in the back of Livy’s mind and sabotages her at every turn. As her life starts unraveling, she must decide whether to reveal her secrets and ask for help. In a debut inspired by her own life, Fung uses bold illustrations in warm shades of red and orange; whenever Viola appears, the palette darkens to purples and grays as swirling, negative thought bubbles overwhelm Livy like waves. Fung delicately balances the heavy subject matter of mental health issues, microaggressions, identity, cultural differences, and belonging with humor and heart.

Elevates the graphic novel genre with its heartfelt focus on mental health and immigrant experiences. (author’s note, Cantonese glossary, character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77321-548-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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