Despite incongruities, Rubin’s silly story and McCreery’s animation-quality artwork will attract eager fans.

EL CHUPACABRAS

The monster with a taste for goats’ blood is at the center of this bilingual tale.

On an isolated ranch, Carla and her dad, Héctor, wake up to an ominous sound. The next day their wide-eyed goats are trembling in a tree—all but one. Carla cycles around their property until she comes upon what looks like a goat pancake. Aside from its head (“¡Blaaaaa!”), the goat is a boneless puddle. “¡EL CHUPACABRAS!” Héctor cries, with the handkerchief-munching cabra draped limply across his arms. A flower peddler offers protective magic dust, but Héctor overdoes it. After a few sneezes, the unhappy goats are taller than the distant town’s church—and they have enormous appetites. The story plays fast and loose with the legend, taking place “a long time ago,” even though the chupacabras reportedly first appeared in Puerto Rico in 1995. Rubin’s fully bilingual text weaves English together with Spanish with no discernable pattern, often switching in the middle of a sentence, which may prove a challenge for some. McCreery’s humorous illustrations (the goats are hilarious) are sometimes at odds with the text. The ranch appears to be in the desert Southwest, but Carla quickly rides her bicycle to a convenient forest. After a goat eats the bell tower, the narrative states there was no “permanent damage.” The chupacabras, described as a “tiny gentleman,” is a visual mix of the Grinch and a simian reptile; Carla and Héctor have brown skin and straight, black hair.

Despite incongruities, Rubin’s silly story and McCreery’s animation-quality artwork will attract eager fans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-53929-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A tiny knight’s tale that’s hard not to like.

ATTACK OF THE UNDERWEAR DRAGON

From the Underwear Dragon series

When the dreaded Underwear Dragon attacks the kingdom, only young Cole can rise to the fire-breathing challenge.

Hoping to join his favorite knight, Sir Percival, as his assistant, Cole writes a heartfelt letter to the famed warrior. Cole’s letter moves Sir Percival to tears (“That’s right. Knights cry”), and Cole gets his wish. Soon enough, the assistant knight is learning to ride horses, swing swords, and calm Sir Percival’s fears of the Underwear Dragon. It’s a rough training for Cole, full of knocks from horses, princesses, and other knights. Nevertheless, Cole finds his knighthood education worthwhile, and he quickly becomes Sir Percival’s greatest supporter. Then the Underwear Dragon arrives and lays waste to the kingdom. One by one, the knights fall to the dragon’s wrath until Cole’s the last brave hero standing in its way. Full of amusing asides, dry wit, and droll pacing, Rothman’s tale of a knight-in-training piles on the laughs even if the humor seems hit-and-miss at times. (Giggles induced by the dragon’s underwear will abate after a few pages.) Still, the author sneaks in a refreshing deconstruction of knighthood that peels back the impenetrable facade for something that’s altogether comical and, thus, empathetic. Oswald’s frenetic artwork—appropriately grand and splashy—provides lots of gags, particularly via exaggerated facial expressions. Cole and Sir Percival present White; the kingdom is a diverse one. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 87.3% of actual size.)

A tiny knight’s tale that’s hard not to like. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11989-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Simply delightful (with a wry final twist).

INVASION OF THE UNICORNS

When an alien unicorn descends to Earth, its mission morphs from embedded surveillance of an Earth family to just plain fun.

Bubble07’s log entries, addressed “Dear Fearless Leader,” comprise the narration. “You were right. We look exactly like the toy animals here.” Should the unicorn army invade Earth? To find out, Bubble07 wriggles into an arcade’s glass box full of plushy prizes and gets hooked by a dad for his daughter. (Dad and daughter present Black; mom, seen later, is a woman of color.) About Earthling Daughter, Bubble07 reports: “She loves her toys. She loves them to pieces! Some are missing their eyeballs. Is this going to happen to me?” Biedrzycki’s expert illustrations form a hilarious counterpoint to the alien’s clueless reportage. They begin in grayscale, accented by Bubble07’s otherworldly streams of neon-hued sparkles, as the spy experiences family camping and “show and share” at school. The jealous family sheepdog tries to bury Bubble07 in the backyard, but revenge is sweet: At night, discovering “amazing” peanut butter cookies, the spy leaves the empty bag next to the sleeping dog. “Fearless Leader…I must get this cookie recipe for our planet.” By Day 50, a snow day, full-color spreads depict the unicorn integrating into family life, experiencing Earthling Daughter’s birthday, cuddly bedtime stories, and a sick day as stand-in comfort animal. On the home planet, Bubble07’s final report recommends: “forget the invasion and send more of us to Earth for… / …a Unicorn Vacation!”

Simply delightful (with a wry final twist). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62354-272-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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