A lovely story about courage and community with a darling protagonist.

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THE VERY LAST CASTLE

A young girl named Ibb transforms her town when she dares to enter its very last castle, which no one has entered since anyone can remember.

Ibb wears stripes and polka dots, princess dresses, tutus and butterfly wings, and big yellow boots. She walks by the castle every day. It is the last castle, and it stands in the middle of her town, with a guard who watches passers-by from the tower. The townspeople, never having entered the castle, speculate about what is inside. “Monsters.” “Giants.” “Snakes.” Ibb wonders if it’s something else. One day, she floats across the moat and knocks on the big door. She is scared away. But soon, an envelope arrives in the mail, inviting her to the castle. Everyone tells her to stay away, but even though she is scared, Ibb wants to know what is inside. The guard welcomes her and shows her around. What he wants is for someone “brave” and “curious” to take his place. Ibb thinks and decides that she’ll help him if he lets the townspeople into the castle too. It turns out to be a win-win for everyone. The illustrations, in pen and ink and watercolor, render Ibb, a young brown girl with afro puffs who shows her fellow townspeople about bravery and kindness, and her story truly memorable. The guard and most of the other adults in Ibb’s life are white; a friend named Alex also presents black.

A lovely story about courage and community with a darling protagonist. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2574-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Eggs-quisitely excellent.

THE GOOD EGG

Being a good egg can be eggs-cruciatingly stressful.

This earnest counterpart to John and Oswald’s hilarious The Bad Seed (2017) opens with a direct address from an oval-shaped saint to readers: “Oh, hello! I was just rescuing this cat. Know why? Because I’m a good egg.” Just how good is this egg? “Verrrrrry good.” Without hesitation, the bespectacled egg offers to help others with carrying groceries, painting houses, and changing tires. The good egg even tries to “keep the peace” among the other 11 eggs in its dozen, who forgo their bedtime, eat sugary cereal, and break stuff. Rotten eggs indeed! When the pressure of being good proves too much, the beleaguered egg embarks on a journey of self-care. John embeds a seed of a great idea—finding a balance between personal and social responsibility—within a rip-roaring, touching narrative. Despite his sober narrator, the author’s sense of humor remains intact thanks to some clever (and punny) wordplay. Likewise, Oswald’s digitally composed, bright artwork pops with rib-tickling close-ups and character-building moments. Both text and art complement each other perfectly. Too long alone, the protagonist heads back to its rowdy family, imparting a slice of wisdom to readers: “I’ll be good to my fellow eggs while also being good to myself.” It’s an empowering moment made all the better when this good egg returns to find a rapturous welcome from the others.

Eggs-quisitely excellent. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-286600-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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