DRAGONS FROM MARS

Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it (fiery breath and all).

Rhyming text tells of a redheaded white boy named Nathaniel who one day looks up at the sky and wonders, for no particular reason, if dragons live on Mars. Inspired, he sends an email to the planet inviting these hypothetical dragons to Earth to stay with him. Molly and Fred take the boy up on the offer, but though they obey his mother’s command to set nothing on fire, they wreck the house anyway. Chagrined, they repair it and even add a dragon-sized wing for themselves. Putting aside the fact that there is no reason to involve Mars in this story (except to make for an interesting title), Aronson’s storyline is as familiar as a well-worn pair of old shoes…and twice as dull. The dragon antics are not particularly naughty, the chaos is subdued, and the idea of having a magical pet/friend has been done far better in such books as A Dragon Moves in, by Lisa Falkenstern (2011). The limp plot and tired rhymes cannot be saved, even by Jack’s energetic art, which seems to be just as puzzled by the Mars connection as readers will be. Employing an animator’s aesthetic, Jack depicts very normal dragons that display no hint of their extraterrestrial origins.

A bust. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236850-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A charming journey of discovery, friendship, and acceptance.

DRAGONBOY

From the Dragonboy series , Vol. 1

A young, White, perfectly bald boy wakes up and happily announces, “Rise and shine, everyone,” as his stuffed animal friends rouse from their slumber.

He quickly dresses in a green dragon costume, and, anticipating adventure, they all travel to a fantastical world. Discoveries unfold agreeably until they meet someone new, a rainbow-horned white unicorn named Karley. She is too sad to play, as Karley isn’t magical and can’t fly like other unicorns. Everyone empathizes with Karley and shares how they are different than expected too. Dragonboy declares, “We are already who we are supposed to be,” which brings forth joy and dancing. After a great day, Dragonboy and friends fall back to sleep as Karley heads down a different hall, back to her room. She falls asleep, content with acceptance. In this first of a new picture-book series, debut author and illustrator Napoleoni uses acrylic paints on wood panels to create a vibrant world. Vivid colors and enchanting, emotive characters work seamlessly with the text to take readers on a journey of empathy and compassion. Hearts are hidden throughout the illustrations, culminating in the final spread with Karley sleeping in bed with a pale, black-haired child named Molly. Molly’s headboard is rainbow colored, and a sign hangs above, reading “One L♡ve, L♡ve all,” opening the door for thoughtful discussion and eager anticipation for Molly’s adventure. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A charming journey of discovery, friendship, and acceptance. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-46216-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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