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A HOME FOR LEO

Far-fetched but satisfying.

This lighthearted tale of a child reared by sea lions is completely outlandish yet manages to capably address very real feelings about belonging and identity.

Leo, a young, white, blond boy, is pictured flying out of a boat during a storm even before the title page; he’s subsequently taken in by a family of sea lions. This looks like kid heaven—bodysurfing with sea lion pups, romping in a whale’s spout, and sleeping under the stars—but Leo feels and looks “different,” until he meets ”a creature who looked like him.” This creature, a young biracial, brown-skinned girl with hair in two ponytail puffs, really does look like him: They are both human. Once reunited with his human family, Leo is happy again, but as before, something is amiss. He still says “Ark! Ark!” and misses “his other family…and the sea.” Not explicitly about transracial adoption or blended families, this is about a child longing to belong, and the simultaneous feelings of happiness and alienation here ring true. Vogel’s stylized digital illustrations have an appealingly cartoonish look, with googly eyes on both humans and animals. Humorous scenarios (Leo sitting in a restaurant seafood tank; a sea lion in the bathtub with a gull on its head) visually portray the contrasts Leo feels. The happy ending, when Leo’s human family moves to the seaside so people and sea creatures can live together, is perhaps unrealistically optimistic, but this is a story of a child raised by sea lions, after all.

Far-fetched but satisfying. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0260-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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IZZY GIZMO AND THE INVENTION CONVENTION

From the Izzy Gizmo series

A disappointing follow-up.

Inventor Izzy Gizmo is back in this sequel to her eponymous debut (2017).

While busily inventing one day, Izzy receives an invitation from the Genius Guild to their annual convention. Though Izzy’s “inventions…don’t always work,” Grandpa (apparently her sole caregiver) encourages her to go. The next day they undertake a long journey “over fields, hills, and waves” and “mile after mile” to isolated Technoff Isle. There, Izzy finds she must compete against four other kids to create the most impressive machine. The colorful, detail-rich illustrations chronicle how poor Izzy is thwarted at every turn by Abi von Lavish, a Veruca Salt–esque character who takes all the supplies for herself. But when Abi abandons her project, Izzy salvages the pieces and decides to take Grandpa’s advice to create a machine that “can really be put to good use.” A frustrated Izzy’s impatience with a friend almost foils her chance at the prize, but all’s well that ends well. There’s much to like: Brown-skinned inventor girl Izzy is an appealing character, it’s great to see a nurturing brown-skinned male caregiver, the idea of an “Invention Convention” is fun, and a sustainable-energy invention is laudable. However, these elements don’t make up for rhymes that often feel forced and a lackluster story.

A disappointing follow-up. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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WOO HOO! YOU'RE DOING GREAT!

WOO-HOO! This is the perfect way to foster healthy self-esteem in little ones.

What’s better than a cheerleading chicken?

Are you ever blue, unsure, tired, or overworked? Do you ever feel lost or overwhelmed? This uplifting book, expressed in delightful, jaunty verse, explains how to lift your spirits pronto: What you need is a booster chicken telling you’re doing great even when you’re not so confident, as when you’re learning or practicing a new skill, for instance. Your feathered champion will be right there, encouraging you all the way, with a loud “WOO HOO!” that’ll keep you going and remove any doubt you’re super terrific. But what if your cheerful chick errs and doesn’t do what it set out to do? Don’t worry—your cheery chicken just needs a reminder that everyone makes mistakes. That alone is a pep talk, enhanced by the wisdom that making mistakes allows everyone to learn and demonstrate they did their best. So forgive yourself, chickens! But the best thing is…instead of relying on someone else—like a chicken—to strengthen your ego, say a generous daily “WOO HOO!” to yourself. This riotous book hits all the right notes and does so succinctly and hilariously. The energetic, comical illustrations, in Boynton’s signature style, will elicit giggles and go far to make the book’s important point. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

WOO-HOO! This is the perfect way to foster healthy self-esteem in little ones. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-316-48679-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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