A gorgeous story about the love of one’s homeland and the courage it takes to emigrate.

ANITA AND THE DRAGONS

A young Dominican girl grapples with emigrating from her homeland.

Anita has long watched the “dragons” fly “high above.” Though they roar and shake, Anita, being a “valiant princesa,” doesn’t fear them. But today a dragon will carry Anita and her mother and father and brothers from their island to a “distant land far, far away from the Dominican Republic.” Lyrical prose accompanied by lovely illustrations that have the look of pastels and collage describes Anita’s fears about what’s to come as well as her anxiety about what she’ll miss about her beloved homeland. The knowledge that hot baths, conveniences, and new experiences await her doesn’t dull the ache that comes from leaving her beautiful life on her island and special people like her abuela. But like the brave princesa she is, Anita eventually “hold[s her] chin high” and meets the dragon, and with it her new life—promising her island “with mango-sweet kisses; black stormy nights; glassy, blue waves; spicy, hot heat; and sandy, snug hugs” that she will return. The art, often pastel hued, adds wonderful texture to the gorgeous text and portrays Anita with dark-brown skin, a trait shared with the majority of the other characters. The unfortunate choice to italicize the majority of the few Spanish words persists throughout.

A gorgeous story about the love of one’s homeland and the courage it takes to emigrate. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-911373-63-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lantana

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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