Well-intentioned but inconsistent, the story starts off strong but loses steam.

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TOMO EXPLORES THE WORLD

From the Tomo's Adventure Journal series

On an island “far to the north,” protagonist Tomo does not like to eat fish, nor does he plan to become a fisherman like the other men and boys of the village.

Black-haired Tomo loves to invent and build things. The only person who appreciates his inventions is his best friend and budding naturalist, Maya. One day while Grandfather naps, Tomo spies his great-grandfather’s fishing rod. Tomo knows he should leave it alone: “It’s legendary, it’s something no one ever touches––and it’s just what he needs” to make a mast for a boat. He grabs for it, misses, and accidentally knocks down his great-grandfather’s “Adventure Journal,” hidden behind a picture. It’s full of diagrams of inventions, and Tomo keeps it, using it to build a canoe that he and Maya paddle off in on an adventure. The digital illustrations are cheery but ambiguous: they give no clear sense of time or location. Village houses appear to be modern, as does the clothing both children and Grandfather wear, but many other characters wear clothing suggestive of a generic Pacific Northwest Indian theme, giving them a stereotyped feel. Further, the children are dressed in summer clothes even while on the open sea, whereas Grandfather is dressed for a colder climate, and other adults appear both bundled up and not, making the book’s chronology unclear.

Well-intentioned but inconsistent, the story starts off strong but loses steam. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-08545-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off.

TINY LITTLE ROCKET

This rocket hopes to take its readers on a birthday blast—but there may or may not be enough fuel.

Once a year, a one-seat rocket shoots out from Earth. Why? To reveal a special congratulatory banner for a once-a-year event. The second-person narration puts readers in the pilot’s seat and, through a (mostly) ballad-stanza rhyme scheme (abcb), sends them on a journey toward the sun, past meteors, and into the Kuiper belt. The final pages include additional information on how birthdays are measured against the Earth’s rotations around the sun. Collingridge aims for the stars with this title, and he mostly succeeds. The rhyme scheme flows smoothly, which will make listeners happy, but the illustrations (possibly a combination of paint with digital enhancements) may leave the viewers feeling a little cold. The pilot is seen only with a 1960s-style fishbowl helmet that completely obscures the face, gender, and race by reflecting the interior of the rocket ship. This may allow readers/listeners to picture themselves in the role, but it also may divest them of any emotional connection to the story. The last pages—the backside of a triple-gatefold spread—label the planets and include Pluto. While Pluto is correctly labeled as a dwarf planet, it’s an unusual choice to include it but not the other dwarfs: Ceres, Eris, etc. The illustration also neglects to include the asteroid belt or any of the solar system’s moons.

A fair choice, but it may need some support to really blast off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18949-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: David Fickling/Phoenix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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