An unconvincing attempt to contrast fantasy with historical reality.



Text and Disney-esque artwork contrast the “typical” fairy-tale princess’s way of life and that of a real (though fictional) princess in medieval Europe.

“Psst…you in your tiara and twirly dress. You look like you’re dreaming of being a princess like Cinderella. Or Snow White. Or Sleeping Beauty.” The princess peering out of a mirror, who looks exactly like the white, pink-gowned princess looking in except for her brown dress, introduces herself as Beatrice—a “very real” princess from the Middle Ages who will reveal her life “versus a fairy-tale day.” The book falls flat for several reasons. From the start, the sole benchmarks for fairy tales appear to be only the aforementioned princesses. How else to contrast singing to forest animals with practicing riding and archery? Or “Princess Charm School” with French lessons from a tutor? The art’s cartoonish renderings minimize opportunities for real contrast by constantly showing the fairy-tale life in bright pinks and medieval life in earth tones. There are a few facts that might be new for some readers, such as the itchy wool of Beatrice’s everyday dresses, the polluted waters of moats, and the custom of arranged marriage. Although princesses of color appear in minor roles in some of the fairy-tale scenes, wholly absent from the “real” history is the fact that the world beyond Europe existed during the medieval period. Oddly, a realistic contrast to fairy-tale knights is avoided, and a double-page spread of a “realistic” feast seems not too different from fairy-tale feasts.

An unconvincing attempt to contrast fantasy with historical reality. (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9769-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A resplendent masterpiece.

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Based on her experience of leaving Mexico for the United States, Morales’ latest offers an immigrant’s tale steeped in hope, dreams, and love.

This story begins with a union between mother and son, with arms outstretched in the midst of a new beginning. Soon after, mother and son step on a bridge, expansive “like the universe,” to cross to the other side, to become immigrants. An ethereal city appears, enfolded in fog. The brown-skinned woman and her child walk through this strange new land, unwilling to speak, unaccustomed to “words unlike those of our ancestors.” But soon their journey takes them to the most marvelous of places: the library. In a series of stunning double-page spreads, Morales fully captures the sheer bliss of discovery as their imaginations take flight. The vibrant, surreal mixed-media artwork, including Mexican fabric, metal sheets, “the comal where I grill my quesadillas,” childhood drawings, and leaves and plants, represents a spectacular culmination of the author’s work thus far. Presented in both English and Spanish editions (the latter in Teresa Mlawer’s translation), equal in evocative language, the text moves with purpose. No word is unnecessary, each a deliberate steppingstone onto the next. Details in the art provide cultural markers specific to the U.S., but the story ultimately belongs to one immigrant mother and her son. Thanks to books and stories (some of her favorites are appended), the pair find their voices as “soñadores of the world.”

A resplendent masterpiece. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4055-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared.


Former Poet Laureate Herrera encourages his young readers to imagine all they might be in his new picture book.

Herrera’s free verse tells his own story, starting as a young boy who loves the plants and animals he finds outdoors in the California fields and is then thrust into the barren, concrete city. In the city he begins to learn to read and write, learning English and discovering a love for words and the way ink flows “like tiny rivers” across the page as he applies pen to paper. Words soon become sentences, poems, lyrics, and a means of escape. This love of the word ultimately leads him to make writing his vocation and to become the first Chicano Poet Laureate of the United States, an honor Herrera received in 2015. Through this story of hardship to success, expressed in a series of conditional statements that all begin “If I,” Herrera implores his readers to “imagine what you could do.” Castillo’s ink and foam monoprint illustrations are a tender accompaniment to Herrera’s verse, the black lines of her illustrations flowing across the page in rhythm with the author’s poetry. Together this makes for a charming read-aloud for groups or a child snuggled in a lap.

A lyrical coming-of-age story in picture-book form that begs to be shared. (Picture book/memoir. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9052-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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