Insufficient context leaves the message obscure.


Personal-space invaders are not popular—as narrator Oliver soon finds out.

He can’t understand why what works so well for Mac and Cheese, the classroom guinea pigs, does not work at all for his classmates. Nina does not want him squeezing in close as she snacks. Pedro does not appreciate Oliver’s snuggling on his reading pillow, and Dustin definitely does not want Oliver’s face rubbing against his shoulder. Mrs. López helps the boy by suggesting he use a hula hoop to understand the concept of personal distancing. Oliver’s “space project” earns the class the essential point required for a field trip. Gutiérrez’s simple story, sprinkled with a few Spanish words from the teacher, lacks the context needed to explain why this young, apparent middle grader has no socialization skills, introducing his difficulty with the simple line “I’ve always wondered how to be a good friend.” The author’s note discusses how acceptable personal-space boundaries can vary culturally and individually but does not illuminate Oliver’s particular challenges further. Bell’s retro illustrations run the gamut from cute—a guinea pig sneaking almonds at snack time—to alarming: Mrs. López fails either to use the inside of her elbow when sneezing or to cover her mouth in time. The sketches in future-scientist Oliver’s notebook help to add some warmth to the proceedings. Oliver has glasses and beige skin; his classmates are diverse.

Insufficient context leaves the message obscure. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950169-25-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Spork

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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