Sure to be a smash.

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NIÑO WRESTLES THE WORLD

Little luchador Niño battles out-of-this-world opponents one by one until he finally meets his match.

Niño has a big imagination and a love of lucha libre, the popular Mexican masked wrestling. While his sisters nap, he becomes an impressive luchador, facing competitors often drawn from Mexican history and folklore. The text, unfolding as if by a commentator calling the action, begs to be read aloud. Challengers are vanquished not by violence but by gentle horseplay and clever wit—until Niño meets Las Hermanitas, awake from their naps, and must quickly devise a new strategy to take on such crafty adversaries. A multiple Pura Belpré medal winner, Morales’ (Just in Case, 2008, etc.) style of illustration continues to evolve with this title. She uses a graphic approach reminiscent of a comic book, with speech bubbles and sound effects, a smart choice for moving along the action of the plot. This design will appeal to children who may struggle to find picture books that match their interests and energy level, especially boys. Trading-card–style introductions to each opponent on the endpapers include pronunciation guidance for Spanish names. Occasional challenges with text placement and page flow keep this title from being flawless, but young readers will be so engrossed with this humorous story that these issues are easy to overlook.

Sure to be a smash. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-604-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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