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

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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

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