A clever, enigmatic glimpse at first-world alienation.

ALIEN NATION

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 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

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 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

PIPPA'S NIGHT PARADE

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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