A reassuring daydream of a book that will foster a sense of life’s possibilities in children.

LITTLE WONDER

“With every step you take, adventure skips along beside you.”

An adventurous young Black boy who lives in an underwater kingdom waves goodbye to his mother (also Black) as he sets out for a day of outdoor fun and exploration. While he is away, the second-person narrator, who is an extension of the boy’s mother, muses about all of the things that the boy—her “Little Wonder”—will see, do, and experience on his literal and metaphorical journeys through the world. He will make surprising discoveries, meet new friends, “find hidden pathways that lead to wonderful treasures,” and discover that “the world is boundless.” Confirming the mother’s vision, the illustrations show the boy following a treasure map that leads him to a dazzling banquet hall; befriending sea creatures and a friendly monster; and even visiting the terrestrial world. There are challenges and moments of fear, but the boy can be assured of what the mother-narrator promises: “I'm always with you,” and “I will forever be your biggest fan.” A dreamlike quality surrounds this gentle fantasy whose narrative thrust recalls Seuss’ All the Places You’ll Go (1990). Narrated in a tone reminiscent of greeting-card verse (of the better variety), the story brims with positivity, encourages children’s independence, and celebrates the bond between caregiver and child. The warm, digitally rendered illustrations show imaginative undersea landscapes that will draw young readers in.

A reassuring daydream of a book that will foster a sense of life’s possibilities in children. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-812-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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While thar be precious little piracy visible in this, its feminist themes are strong.

HOW TO BE A PIRATE

Feminism for the piratically inclined.

Fitzgerald and Barrager give the old chestnut of a girl who’s turned away from a boys’ fort due to her gender alone a piratical twist. After CeCe’s initial disappointment, she vows to get advice from the only true pirate she knows: her grandfather. Game to give his granddaughter a 101 in how to be the best possible scurvy dog, he uses each of his tattoos to extol a virtue such as bravery or speed. As in Alison McGhee and Eliza Wheeler’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story (2016), body art becomes the inspiration for any number of adventures and aphorisms, ending with the most important lesson: love. Readers may note that few of these flights of fancy have much to do with pirates specifically. Nevertheless, an emboldened CeCe returns to the boys and successfully owns her piratude. The ending is more than a bit optimistic, as CeCe gains admission simply by redeclaring intentions with a smidgen more chutzpah. Would that misogyny always rolled over so easily. Happily, Fitzgerald’s tale is accompanied by the rollicking vibrancy of Barrager’s art. Reality pales (literally) in the face of the imagination, with a clever tonal shift to a brighter, more saturated palette indicating CeCe’s determination. CeCe and Grandpa both present white; the boys who initially snub her display a range of skin colors and hair textures.

While thar be precious little piracy visible in this, its feminist themes are strong. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-778-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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