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From the Skeletina and the In-Between World series

Unique characters and rich illustrations anchor a multifaceted but scattered story.

“The in-between world is the one place where the dead and the living come together,” and Skeletina is the mistress of that universe.

As the friendly, playful skeleton provides a tour of this space, which evokes the vibrant images of el Día de los Muertos, she explains that the living come here when they dream and describes several of its residents. Fludz, a smiling blue ocean wave, for example, helps children overcome their fear of water. Skeletina serves as a guide through dreams, helping with anxieties and warding off nightmares. Jaramillo’s artwork is captivating, with details, bold colors, and intricate use of delicate grays and blacks that result in an ethereal look. The endpapers preview inhabitants of the in-between world; however, confusingly, not all of them appear in the book, and some who are featured in the book are not included there. The story reads like wisdom from ghosts (“This is a strange place indeed, but always remember you get to decide what happens next!”) but also contains suggestions for pacifying spirits and taking control of dreams. While all of the pieces are connected, there isn’t a tight hold on the various threads. Most characters are nonhuman, though their world is infused with references to Latinx folklore; human characters are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Unique characters and rich illustrations anchor a multifaceted but scattered story. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-945635-46-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A playful, funny, and heartfelt tale to soothe the back-to-school blues.

A young lycanthrope frets about the first night of school.

It’s time for Sophie to head off to howlergarten for her first full moon—but what if she fails to transform into a werewolf like her parents? She worries about being away from her parents, too, but she meets new friends, participates in werewolf training (which entails tracking scents, moving like a wolf, and listening “to the whispers of the wind”), and survives her first full moon. Warm and empathetic Sophie even offers reassurance to a classmate who doesn’t transform. Shum’s story is a sweetly encouraging and appealing take on the perennial topic of first-day-of-school jitters. Though the book features werewolves, Sophie is relatable, her concerns—separation anxiety, fears that she won’t fit in or do well at school—likely to resonate with many youngsters. The illustrations alternate between full- and half-page spreads and vignettes; the use of panels on one page gives the book the feel of comics. Though the main characters are werewolves, they’re nevertheless an endearing bunch, sweet and furry, with oversized round heads and sturdy bodies. One adorable scene shows Sophie and the other children at howlergarten snoozing, curled up like pups rather than kids. Sophie’s mom has dark brown skin, while Sophie and her father are tan-skinned. The howlergarten students are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A playful, funny, and heartfelt tale to soothe the back-to-school blues. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 9780593521274

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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