Stunning artwork, full of warmth and pizazz, presents a lovable heroine who will win hearts with her perseverance and humor.

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LITTLE KUNOICHI, THE NINJA GIRL

From the Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl series

For Little Kunoichi, ninja school is hard, but with practice, friendship, and humor, she flies high at the Island Festival.

Tucked away on a secret island, Little Kunoichi lives with her ninja family, attending a supersecret ninja girls’ school. But scaling cliffs and using nunchucks and throwing stars don’t come easy. Everything changes when she spies Chibi Samurai, a small boy with middling skills, practicing with great determination. Inspired, Little Kunoichi applies herself, and when the two meet, their dedication to shugyo (“training like crazy”) makes their friendship bloom. Together they prepare for the Island Festival, where they wow the crowd and grow in confidence (despite a lost ninja star or two). Ishida cleverly and drolly promotes the virtues of hard work, imagination, and play. There is much to intrigue both genders, from silly jokes and pink dragons to swordplay and cunning. Beautiful, vivid pops of color—at once both gentle and vibrant—fill the spreads. The lovely paint-on-paper illustrations have a winning honesty and whimsy. From the text to the artwork, everything about Little Kunoichi’s life and culture is made to feel special. This thoughtfulness extends to the backmatter, as a concluding page explains Japanese words and cultural references.

Stunning artwork, full of warmth and pizazz, presents a lovable heroine who will win hearts with her perseverance and humor. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-57061-954-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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