A fable that attempts a spirit of community and loyalty but falls a bit flat in storytelling.

THE RED PRINCE

When a young prince is captured, the townspeople come to his aid in a surprising way.

In the dark of night, strangers armed with guns sail to the land of Avala and seize the city. They grab the boy prince, still in his red pajamas, and imprison him in a tall tower. With the help of a sneaky canine, the prince escapes but must travel far to get back to his city. Like a cardinal in a stark winter scene, his red pajamas stand out against the snow, making him easy to track. When he finally gets home, the strangers are closing in. However, he flings open the city gates, and all his people are dressed head to toe in red. “The prince was invisible in a sea of brilliant color.” The crimson crowd spills over an immense, wordless double-page spread, hiding the prince and bringing him to safety. However, in a strange, final reach for tension that feels as though it were added to meet page count, the prince separates himself from the crowd to chase his dog and is cornered by the strangers once again, necessitating that the townspeople save him a second time. The prince and his royal parents are white, as are most, though not all, of the citizens of Avala.

A fable that attempts a spirit of community and loyalty but falls a bit flat in storytelling. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8912-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Birdsong began her career as a teacher, and the book will find repeated use in the classroom.

I WILL BE FIERCE

A multicultural girl-power manifesto featuring a feisty young girl who faces her day as a knight on an epic quest.

The unnamed narrator puts on her “armor” (a rainbow sweater) and fills her “treasure chest” (a backpack). Venturing forth to “explore new worlds,” she drives back “dragons” (neighborhood dogs on their walk), boards the “many-headed serpent” (her school bus, with schoolmates’ heads protruding from every window), and visits “the Mountain of Knowledge” (the school library) to “solve the mysteries of the unknown.” After standing up for her beliefs—by joining a classmate sitting alone in the cafeteria—the young girl returns home to rest in the lap of an older female relative, possibly a grandparent/primary caregiver, to prepare for the next day, when she can be “fierce again.” Birdsong’s repeated refrain—“I will be fierce!”—underlines the unambiguous message of this sassy picture book, and Chanani’s bold and energetic illustrations reinforce the text’s punchy, feminist-y declarations. They depict a joyously multiracial environment, consciously tackling stereotypes with an elderly, white, female bus driver and a groovy, Asian-presenting librarian with a green streak in her hair. The fierce protagonist herself has brown skin and fluffy, dark brown hair, and her caregiver also has brown skin.

Birdsong began her career as a teacher, and the book will find repeated use in the classroom. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29508-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014).

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE PERFECT PRINCESS PARTY

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 2

Princess Magnolia’s perfect birthday party’s threatened by constant monster alarms, summoning her secret identity again and again.

Prim, proper Princess Magnolia is all decked out in her pink finery, awaiting the arrival of a dozen ethnically diverse fellow-princess party guests for her birthday when her monster-alarm ring goes off. She changes attire and personas, becoming the heroic Princess in Black. Working swiftly, she saves a goat from a hungry monster and gets back to her palace in time to welcome her guests. But just when she thinks she’s in the clear and ready to open her presents, off goes her monster-alarm ring again! This pattern—Magnolia is just about to open presents when her alarm goes off, she comes up with a distraction for the princesses, defeats a monster, and returns just in time—continues through the book. It’s enhanced by visual gags, such as Magnolia’s increasingly flustered appearance, and hilarious depictions of the various ways monsters try to eat goats, from between giant pieces of bread to in a giant ice cream cone. A side character, the fittingly named Princess Sneezewort, frequently comes close to discovering Magnolia’s secret. In the end, Magnolia can’t take the constant interruptions anymore, yelling at a monster that it’s her birthday—the monster, abashed, ends up helping her in one last distraction for the other princesses.

A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014). (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6511-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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