An ambitious but not entirely successful reboot of a familiar favorite.


A little mouse’s “uncle’s uncle’s uncle” is the source of a lightly fractured version of Tolstoy’s “The Gigantic Turnip.”

As the familiar story unfolds, an alternative is presented by some mice tunneling beneath the large turnip that the usual characters—a white-haired grandfather and grandmother, a grandson (in the original, a granddaughter), a puppy, a kitten, and one lone mouse—are trying to pull out of the ground. The soft watercolor paintings have been “adjusted” by Adobe Photoshop. The full-color paintings on white paper with a ripped bottom edge telling the traditional story have been “taped” at the top of rough brown paper with irregular side edges, within which the mouse story plays out. The human characters are light-skinned, and Grandson has black hair. Beneath, the mice and two moles in the tunnel are mostly painted in shades of brown, except for the gray mouse (the “uncle’s uncle’s uncle”) who leaves his friends to help the humans up top. The text is very simple, but the English punch line (“Let’s juice this baby!”) feels jarringly contemporary. A Simplified Chinese edition of the story publishes simultaneously, with simplified characters and transliterated text directly above the characters as well as a closing glossary. Thumbnails of the spreads and the English text are reproduced in the backmatter in a design that does not do justice to the parallel stories.

An ambitious but not entirely successful reboot of a familiar favorite. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-945-29526-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candied Plums

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships.


Neela loves cooking with her mother in their big, warm kitchen, where her grandmother’s portrait hangs on the wall.

On Saturday, Neela and Amma go to the green market to buy the vegetable Neela loves cooking best: tomatoes! Together, Neela and Amma make a sauce using a recipe passed down from Paati. As they cook, Neela and her mother dance to the music Amma’s bangles make when she chops vegetables and grates carrots. Amma tells Neela about how tomatoes came from Mesoamerica, where they were cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, and how Europeans initially feared they were poisonous. Now, Amma says, they’re used in cooking all over the world—including India, where Paati’s recipe comes from. As they finish the sauce and can it for the winter, Amma tells Neela about the tomato harvest and about the benefits of eating and cooking vegetables and fruits while they are in season. As they finish preserving the sauce, Neela saves a jar for Paati, who will visit in the winter. Martinez-Neal’s warmly textured, beautifully detailed illustrations are the perfect celebration of intergenerational love. Similarly, the gentle text has some lovely emotional moments. However, Lakshmi includes so much information in the narrative that it meanders, which may cause readers to lose hold of its core. Recipes for sauce and chutney, additional tomato facts, a note about farm workers, and a personal note close the book.

A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20270-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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