A fun twist on a tale from Japanese oral storytelling tradition, great for reading aloud.

LET'S SCARE BEAR

Four friends take turns trying to scare Bear.

Mouse, Fox, Snake, and Spider love manju cake, a Japanese steamed bun with sweet filling. As they’re about to enjoy a manju feast, Bear thumps by. Seeing as Bear is the biggest and bravest animal around, the four friends decide to scare him. Fox goes first, baring his sharp teeth, but Bear just flashes his teeth back. Spider, Snake, and Mouse follow with their tricks, but nothing can scare Bear. Finally, Bear says only one thing scares him: manju cakes. While Bear hides in his cave at the very thought, the four friends attempt to scare Bear one last time—but Bear plays the best trick of all. Katakawa’s debut picture book is a funny tale of silly scare tactics and tricks. Based on a classic Japanese rakugo tale called “Manju Kowai,” Katakawa’s telling emphasizes cute animals and a one-line lesson that sharing may be better than scaring. The friendly, cartoon illustrations are bold and lively. Using digital drawing techniques, Katakawa adds movement and depth to the images as well as small details (Snake’s spectacles, Mouse’s overalls, Spider’s web-written dialogue) that add fun and context to the short text.

A fun twist on a tale from Japanese oral storytelling tradition, great for reading aloud. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3953-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here.

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THE COUCH POTATO

Can a couch potato peel themself off their beloved, comfortable couch?

John and Oswald’s titular spud certainly finds it very hard to do so. Why should they leave their “comfy, cozy couch” when everything that’s needed is within reach? Their doodads and gadgets to amuse and entertain, their couch’s extendable gloved hands to grab food from the kitchen, and screens upon screens to watch their favorite TV shows (highlights: MadYam, Fries), play their favorite video games, and livestream their friends. Where’s the need to leave the living room? Then…“PEW-WWWWWWW”! The electricity goes out one day. Left without screens and gizmos, the couch potato decides to take dog Tater “for a walk…outside,” where the trees and birds and skies seem rich, “like a high-resolution 156-inch curved screen, but even more realistic.” The outdoor experience proves cathartic and freeing, away from those cords that bind, liberating enough to commit this couch potato to spending more time off the couch. Similar to The Bad Seed (2017), The Good Egg (2019), and The Cool Bean (2019) in small-scale scope and moral learning, this latest guidebook to life retains John’s attention to textual goodness, balancing good-humored laughs with a sincere conversational tone that immediately pulls readers in. Naturally, Oswald’s succinct artwork—loaded with genial spuds, metatextual nods, and cool aloofness—continues this loose series’ winsome spirit. No counterarguments here, couch potatoes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 65.9% of actual size.)

Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295453-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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