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 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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