A rich, imaginative world inhabited by believable, endearing humans.

Cautious Oktober avoids the unpredictable outdoors…until he finds himself face to face with the Wilderness.

The Vasylenko family has 12 children, each named after a month of the year. They’re adventure seekers who dream of wild things and places—all except Oktober, who prefers his journeys to be tucked between the covers of his books. He’s terrified of encountering the Wilderness monster—though Mom tells him the wilderness isn’t a beast but “a place filled with many stories and adventures.” After reluctantly heading outside, Oktober wanders off alone and finds himself lost…with the Wilderness, a hulking yet smiling creature made up of leaves. Confronting his biggest fear, Oktober realizes that the Wilderness is afraid, too. With help from his new friend, Oktober makes his way home. This story is an effective metaphor for conquering fears. Oktober is a likable, wide-eyed bookworm, stronger and more adventurous than he realizes. Fittingly, McCarthy’s sweeping landscapes are full of gorgeous earth tones with rolling fog, mossy waterfalls, and piles of autumnal leaves adeptly brought to life. The endpapers serve as an intriguing visual glossary of fictional plants and animals, like the screaming Susan and the rumble weed. Oktober’s father is light-skinned, while he and his mother are brown-skinned; the other children are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A rich, imaginative world inhabited by believable, endearing humans. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781536231373

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


A straightforward tale of conflict and reconciliation for newly emergent readers? Not exactly, which raises it above the...

In this deceptively spare, very beginning reader, a girl assembles a robot and then treats it like a slave until it goes on strike.

Having put the robot together from a jumble of loose parts, the budding engineer issues an increasingly peremptory series of rhymed orders— “Throw, Bot. / Row, Bot”—that turn from playful activities like chasing bubbles in the yard to tasks like hoeing the garden, mowing the lawn and towing her around in a wagon. Jung crafts a robot with riveted edges, big googly eyes and a smile that turns down in stages to a scowl as the work is piled on. At last, the exhausted robot plops itself down, then in response to its tormentor’s angry “Don’t say no, Bot!” stomps off in a huff. In one to four spacious, sequential panels per spread, Jung develops both the plotline and the emotional conflict using smoothly modeled cartoon figures against monochromatic or minimally detailed backgrounds. The child’s commands, confined in small dialogue balloons, are rhymed until her repentant “Come on home, Bot” breaks the pattern but leads to a more equitable division of labor at the end.

A straightforward tale of conflict and reconciliation for newly emergent readers? Not exactly, which raises it above the rest. (Easy reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87083-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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