The themes of imaginary play and sibling rivalry provide good-natured support for a lighthearted, easy-to-read adventure.

SPACE BOY AND HIS DOG

A trip to the moon in search of a neighbor’s lost cat is all in a day’s work for Niko and his crew.

Space hero Niko puts the finishing touches on an elaborate cardboard-and-tape construction on the title page. His mom and dad “let him park his spaceship in the backyard.” When Niko, his dog, Tag, and his co-pilot, Radar (whose robot expressions vary from worried to happy/worried), spot a “lost cat” poster, they blast off to search the moon for the missing feline. But this heroic account has a glitch—Niko’s sister, Posh (who “lives on Planet Home, too”), stows away. The third-person narrative adds to the humor, as Niko’s voice breaks through to declare—erroneously—about Posh: “…she is not in this story.” Neubecker’s illustration shows Niko’s enormous hands in the foreground, trying to block readers’ views of Posh. While Niko and crew search the cratered surface (where a tiny moon creature peers from the edge of the page), Posh strategically deploys Tag’s treats, and readers may anticipate what happens. Eight brief chapters nicely pace the action: “To the Moon!”; “Lost Sister”; “Home in Time for Dinner.” Neubecker’s solid lines and bright colors channel comic-book art, with multiple frames carrying the narrative on several pages.

The themes of imaginary play and sibling rivalry provide good-natured support for a lighthearted, easy-to-read adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59078-955-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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