An empowering and skillfully illustrated story of self-acceptance.


A young princess discovers her true power in a colorfully illustrated self-esteem–building narrative for children who don’t feel like they fit in.

Princess Safiya is bored by her classes on proper behavior and unsure of her place in her blended family. She’s filled with contradictory emotions: She’s saddened by the death of her mother, Lilia, and resentful about her father Cedric’s quick remarriage. She loves her older sister Cissy but feels abandoned by her due to Cissy’s focus on her upcoming wedding. She pretends to hate her little half brother, Sebastian, but “love[s] making him giggle with tickles and playing hide and seek.” She’s angry at her stepmother, Zerelda, but sympathizes with her because “she knew [her] marriage was out of convenience and not love.” (Safiya and her older siblings are darker skinned, and Cedric, Zerelda, and Sebastian appear white.) To escape these confusing feelings, Safiya decides to run away, but she falls asleep before she can do so. In her dream, her guide is a talking unicorn named Galaxy, who takes the young runaway on a grand adventure. They travel inside a whale to the unicorn’s home, where Safiya blossoms into her true self by learning to believe in her inner and outer beauty. Back home, she’s able to speak the “heart of the truth” and weave her fragmented family together. Overall, Safiya’s story, the first in a series, is a heartfelt one, and young readers will recognize many of the complications and contradictions in her life. Her longing to feel connected to her family, as depicted by debut author Casey, is particularly touching, as is her almost unwilling compassion for her father and stepmother, even when their choices adversely affect her. The wonder of Galaxy’s magical home is charmingly vivid, although readers may wish that the story spent more time there and provided more detail about its whimsical inhabitants. The latter are enticingly portrayed in Nkomo’s complex, apparently anime-inspired illustrations, but they’re almost absent from the text.

An empowering and skillfully illustrated story of self-acceptance.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-16484-6

Page Count: 116

Publisher: This Real Life Books

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?