This slim chapter book has an even slimmer foundation.


From the Stella and the Night Sprites series , Vol. 1

Stella encounters the night sprites, mischievous nocturnal beings that steal socks, hide the caps of markers, and knit children’s hair into knots, among other mild wickednesses, in this series opener.

Stella's dubious enough about getting her first pair of glasses that her mother's declaration that her hair is so knotted it will need to be cut comes as a real blow. How will anyone recognize her? Furthermore, her new glasses aren't nearly sparkly enough. But a mysterious, colorfully dressed woman who claims to be much older than she looks waves a wand, and suddenly Stella's specs are satisfyingly sparkly. She likes the new crispness of the world she sees and how easy it is to read now. That night, her glasses also reveal Trixie, a knit-knotter whose job is snarling her hair. It seems there's a hairy-fairy in town who's in league with the knit-knotters to drum up business for her new salon. Can Stella convince Trixie not to knot her hair and thereby spare her a haircut? Hay's premise is mildly beguiling, but her worldbuilding is arbitrary and incomplete—likely due to the need to develop further night-sprite stories. While she evokes the experience of the change wrought by a new pair of glasses well, the plot as a whole is less than compelling, and characterization is thin.

This slim chapter book has an even slimmer foundation. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-81999-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A timely addition considering that interest in sending new probes—and people—to the red planet is ramping up.


A valedictory tip of the hat to the Opportunity rover, an “Interplanetary Detective” that far outlasted its original mission and also found telling evidence of water on Mars.

As has become usual for picture-book tributes to Mars rovers “Oppy” gets anthropomorphic features and feelings as well as feminine pronouns. Nevertheless, strenuous efforts to spare readers any confusion begin on the title page with a cautionary note about “fictionalized” content and finish off with a lengthy afterword that includes actual photos. In between, most of the light but specific informational payload is set apart from the narrative and printed in a different weight type. Having itself been finished off by a dust storm in 2018, Opportunity has since been buried beneath salutes to the currently active Curiosity. Still, as it operated for a record 14 ½ years, it does merit remembrance for longevity as well as a successful mission…and perhaps also for the five weeks it spent stuck in “Purgatory,” a sandy ripple that inspired doubtless frustrated scientists back on Earth to dub all such traps purgatoids henceforth. Slipping in the odd magnifying glass or deerstalker hat, Carter sets the wide-eyed wanderer wheeling over pink but challengingly craggy Mars-scapes. In one of the two scenes set on Earth, Oppy’s human crew includes both brown- and pale-skinned figures, one of the latter in a wheelchair. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A timely addition considering that interest in sending new probes—and people—to the red planet is ramping up. (source list) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63592-319-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese.


In winter, an old man enters Cat’s Eye Hutong (alleyway or lane) with his bicycle, fitted with a rack filled with candied hawberry skewers, a Chinese treat.

He hopes to sell all so that he can buy medicine but first puts down a box of fish scraps in the snow. He calls for customers, but none appear. The charming, naïve watercolor-and–colored-pencil paintings begin to fill with feline images built into the architecture. Then a small child wearing a white medical mask (sometimes worn to prevent the spread of germs) buys a stick of hawberries, but as she walks off, the man notices a white tail peeking from her coat. Other young, masked buyers appear; all have tails, and one’s mask has slipped, exposing whiskers. Finally, a human girl buys the last stick, and when the old man asks her about the kids with tails, she informs him that only “Kitties have tails” but points up to cats on the rooftops all eating the red hawberry sticks. Careful readers will remember the fish left “as usual.” This book publishes simultaneously with an edition in Simplified Chinese, which features simplified characters and transliterated text in a small font directly above the characters. Backmatter includes a glossary keyed to intermediate-level readers, three-to-a-page thumbnails of the illustrations with English text, and note with cultural background (sadly missing in the English-only edition); further Chinese learning materials are available on the publisher’s website.

A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-945-29519-5

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Candied Plums

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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