A somewhat special book about being special

MABEL

A MERMAID FABLE

A mustacheless mermaid learns to embrace her difference.

In this gorgeous ocean setting, Mabel’s “dad had a mustache. Her mom had a mustache….Even her baby brother had a tiny baby mustache.” Mabel doesn’t, and she’s horribly embarrassed about it. She tries to disguise her lack with shells or kelp, but when a pufferfish yells “nudibranch!” in her direction, she takes it as an insult and decides to hide in holes under the sand. While hiding she comes across a seven-legged octopus named Lucky, and together the two learn that their missing appendages don’t mean they have to miss out on anything. It’s a warm story of friendship, with countless rich details in the illustrations: a treasure-strewn ocean floor and fabulously expressive nudibranchs (a kind of sea slug). Watkins’ prose style is fun to read aloud, clipped and spare, though there are a few awkward moments of dialogue between mermaid and septopus. Both message and basic plot are well covered in picture books, however, and this one doesn’t particularly rise above the rest in delivery. Still, the presence of both mermaids and mustaches may heighten its appeal to a broader audience.

A somewhat special book about being special . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5527-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

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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