Layered and shocking; to be read with the knowledge that a conversation on war will surely follow.


The story of a soldier ant that’s true to ant colonies while also an allegory of war.

In Antworld, everyone has their role. But one tiny newborn ant is different. He has a name: Douglas. As Douglas grows, he watches others carry food in a long, beautiful line. He wants to join that line, but that is not his job. He is to be a soldier to protect Antworld from enemies. He is proud of his uniform and gets to march in a formation while a band plays and other ants wave flags. But when Antworld comes under attack, there is no more pomp and circumstance. Large shells whiz straight toward the anthill, dwarfing it. A smoky, gun-powdered “BANG” explodes across one spread. Ross then abruptly changes the narrative, with one double-page spread showing World War I soldiers advancing across a shattered, gray no man’s land, the yellow of mustard gas and a smear of red in one corner the only spots of color; directly beneath the red is a typescript sentence: “The end.” This is followed soberingly by a monument covered in nameless A’s, with “Douglas” included. The cover shows a smiling, cartoonish ant with rainbow lettering for the clever title. But the immediacy of the ending is the antithesis of all that charm. That is what war can do. Change life in an instant.

Layered and shocking; to be read with the knowledge that a conversation on war will surely follow. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3564-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Cool beans indeed.


From the Food Group series

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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