A clever, enigmatic glimpse at first-world alienation.

An artist from Venezuela debuts a wordless picture book in which creatures are obsessed with their mobile phones.

At first glance, the characters appear to be, as the title suggests, extraterrestrials. Bipedal figures have oversized heads, each unique—sporting spikes, cubes, bulbous growths, geometric shapes, an elephantine trunk, an upside-down cone, or tentacles. Closer inspection reveals light-skinned human bodies dressed in contemporary winter clothing. The juxtaposition of some bare human arms with the heads raises questions about these travelers, who pass through a railway station, then board an underground train. The station is named “La Nacionalien.” The setting and compositions, rendered in black and white with detailed crosshatchings, recall Brian Selznick’s graphite work in The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007). Bassi is a skilled draftsman. His foreshortened close-up of a child in a stroller reaching toward a seat on which sits a clunky, early-model handheld phone focuses attention on the object that will change everything. After the pudgy finger pushes a button, everyone’s phones signal interference/dysfunction and heads explode—literally. Sequential panels portray individual eruptions; dramatic double-page spreads display co-mingling springs, cubes, sprockets, and tentacles. Then the child’s mother extends her hand, and order (and service) are restored. Viewers who studied an earlier map will ponder the purpose of that vintage phone. Those who ruminate on the title and the still-distracted phone gazers will have a eureka moment.

A clever, enigmatic glimpse at first-world alienation. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64614-038-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019


Warm but underdone.

In this picture book from actor Gyllenhaal and his partner, Caruso, a child and his uncle bond on a fantastic journey.

Leo, an avid dancer, is dismayed when Uncle Mo visits—he’s in town for a “rubber band convention.” Illustrations show both with wavy brown hair and light tan skin. Not only does Leo think his uncle is rather dull, he’s also leery of Uncle Mo’s many rules. A rather abrupt narrative shift occurs when the pair inexplicably drive into another dimension. Here they encounter Great-Aunt Gloria (who is very tall and presents Black) and Uncle Munkle Carbunkle (who is very short and light-skinned), who guide them through the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles. Unimpressed with Uncle Mo, Great-Aunt Gloria says he must take a quiz on “Auntieology and Uncleology.” After several wrong answers, Uncle Mo has a final chance at redemption: He must state his nephew’s favorite activity. When Leo springs into action to dance for his clueless uncle, a mishap leaves him mortified and un-bespectacled. Enter Uncle Mo to save the day by using a rubber band to secure Leo’s glasses. While Santat’s energetic illustrations do much to clarify the narrative, they can’t fully make up for the disjointed storytelling—it’s never clear why the two have entered this dimension or why Leo is suddenly so eager to help Uncle Mo. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Warm but underdone. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776990

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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