A stimulating and funny fantasy about acceptance.

THE GHOUL

The story of Hasan, a young and courageous boy from a small village who decides to brave the unknown.

Inspired by Arab folklore, the story revolves around life in a quiet and peaceful village somewhere in Arabia, where the only thing disturbing the surrounding peace is the ghoul living up the mountain—a monster everyone dreads and fears. While nobody has actually seen it, all the villagers are worried that it might eat children, so they tiptoe and whisper lest they draw its attention. Perplexed by the idea of a monster that nobody has seen or heard, Hasan decides to defy his parents and investigate for himself. To his surprise, he finds a creature that is just as afraid of humans as they are of it, an estranged being who will not venture down the mountain out of fear of these humans who look so much different. After sharing their mutual misconceptions, Hasan and the ghoul realize that they can still be friends despite their differences. Children will giggle at both the ghoul’s physical ridiculousness (it looks like a shaggy purple cyclops with an endearingly goofy grin) and the colloquy that reveals important truths: “But…ghouls are vegetarians.” This Jordanian import has great potential to serve caregivers and educators in facilitating discussions about perceiving—and more importantly, accepting—the “other” despite differences and initial assumptions.

A stimulating and funny fantasy about acceptance. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62371-925-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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