Unpleasant…unless you love truly gross humor.

Hold your nose while two siblings take readers from A to Z.

Rendered with oversized heads on small bodies, the pale, dark-haired siblings assign a word to each letter of the alphabet in seemingly conventional fashion (“A is for Apple”), but each entry is followed by an “unless…” or its semantic equivalent: “unless you’re being chased / by a bloodsucking vampire, / then A is for AAAAAAGGHHH!!!” The insolent, petulant short-haired sibling is fond of sister-taunting, chasing her in a vampire costume and, later, scaring her with a dangling reptile when “S is for Snake.” The same child also throws a fit to get some ice cream, informing readers, “if you scream loud enough (and long enough), you’ll probably get some.” There’s a heavy dose of potty humor—instances of “doo-doo,” poop, pee, (lots of) farting, and undies—as well as repeated vomiting and nose-picking. Some of the entries are a stretch, making for a disjointed text: A monkey suddenly appears when “M is for Monkey / unless you have mountains of money. / Then M can be for whatever you want.” Per abecedary best practices, the capital and lowercase versions of each letter are included, but the book is primarily about grubby horseplay and mean-spirited pranks, not so much for teaching phonemic awareness or building vocabulary. Aiming for irreverent and mischievous, the book meets those marks, but little about the story or characters is likable. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Unpleasant…unless you love truly gross humor. (Picture book. 5-8.)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944903-97-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020


A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020


Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further.

A young Latine boy finally gets to rescue the dog of his dreams, but training can be a challenge in two languages.

Like many children, José has been dreaming of having a pet of his own, specifically un perro, a dog. Like any good owner, José promptly begins training his new canine companion but soon realizes his rescue mutt, Feliz, knows only words in English. This is a problem because in José’s home everyone speaks both Spanish and English. José and Feliz must rise to the challenge; fortunately, treats and snuggles are great motivators. The narrative uses Spanish words and phrases throughout (“perros blancos,” “¡Yo quiero este!” “¡Sientate!”), usually with English context clues for understanding. This is complex vocabulary for an early reader, and the shifting in phonics from English to Spanish will be challenging for true beginners; the book is best suited for intermediate to advanced readers in dual-language classrooms or homes. Much like Feliz, however, it is sure to find a loving (and bilingual) home. Cheerful illustrations complement the text, helping readers make sense of the narrative. While José and his mother are darker-skinned, his father and sister are lighter-skinned. (This review has been updated for accuracy.)

Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further. (glossary of Spanish-English words) (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52116-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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