Unfortunate images compromise this ninja mission. Look to Sanae Ishida’s Chibi Samurai series for cultural accuracy and...

READ REVIEW

NINJA CAMP

Aspiring ninjas attend camp, where they hone their skills and guard the coveted Shadow Blade.

A multicultural group of kids and their teacher arrive in a bamboo forest littered with tents, “Ninja Camp is finally here!” Evenly paced rhymes narrate as the students practice throwing ninja stars and work on strength training. Their teacher challenges them: “Are you fierce and unafraid? / Will you guard the Shadow Blade?” The real test comes when a rival camp steals the blade, calling for a battle showdown. The simple plot reads well aloud. Bright, digitally rendered characters against the colorful natural landscapes will keep readers’ eyes engaged. There are visual missteps, however. Liberal artistic license is taken in the styling of the ninja clothing, eschewing classical Japanese attire despite ninjitsu’s cultural origins. During training, the student with the darkest skin tone is shown last in line, while their white classmate leads. On the same page, another white student overtakes a distressed student of color during a run. The final honor of the Shadow Blade is bestowed on the white student who acts as focal character; this child perches on a rock while a student of color looks up in admiration. The culmination of these portrayals makes for a regrettable message.

Unfortunate images compromise this ninja mission. Look to Sanae Ishida’s Chibi Samurai series for cultural accuracy and quirky ninja fun. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6331-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014).

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE PERFECT PRINCESS PARTY

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 2

Princess Magnolia’s perfect birthday party’s threatened by constant monster alarms, summoning her secret identity again and again.

Prim, proper Princess Magnolia is all decked out in her pink finery, awaiting the arrival of a dozen ethnically diverse fellow-princess party guests for her birthday when her monster-alarm ring goes off. She changes attire and personas, becoming the heroic Princess in Black. Working swiftly, she saves a goat from a hungry monster and gets back to her palace in time to welcome her guests. But just when she thinks she’s in the clear and ready to open her presents, off goes her monster-alarm ring again! This pattern—Magnolia is just about to open presents when her alarm goes off, she comes up with a distraction for the princesses, defeats a monster, and returns just in time—continues through the book. It’s enhanced by visual gags, such as Magnolia’s increasingly flustered appearance, and hilarious depictions of the various ways monsters try to eat goats, from between giant pieces of bread to in a giant ice cream cone. A side character, the fittingly named Princess Sneezewort, frequently comes close to discovering Magnolia’s secret. In the end, Magnolia can’t take the constant interruptions anymore, yelling at a monster that it’s her birthday—the monster, abashed, ends up helping her in one last distraction for the other princesses.

A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014). (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6511-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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