This isn’t a Halloween treat to savor; skip it.

I'M A ZCARY VAMPIRE

Even a vampire’s skills need propping up.

In Transylvania, a diminutive young vampire is distressed when his puny shadow fails to frighten a little girl. He tells her that if he can’t scare anyone, he won’t pass his upcoming “tezt.” (This vamp substitutes “z” for “s” and “th.”) His fate if that happens? He’ll go to “banana peeler zchool.” Pitying him, the girl offers to help. The next evening, she encounters a gigantic shadow cast by the vampire, greatly enlarged from what it would be naturally thanks to interesting props. The girl faints in mock terror. The vampire’s cronies congratulate him on his success, and he receives a medal for “biggest scare.” The wee ghoul thanks his friend for her assistance and boost to his self-confidence. In a concluding twist, the girl thanks him for helping her overcome her fear of vampires! This odd, unfunny Portuguese import has glaring problems: The vampire explained he could fail his exam next day but didn’t manage his “scare” until the next evening. What happened at the exam? More problematic are the Z’s in the vamp’s speech: Instead of being comical, they’re offensive gibes at “foreign” accents. Additionally, the “banana peelers” are depicted insultingly as unintelligent, with dangling tongues and crossed eyes, as if their task is too difficult. Loose, cartoonish illustrations are colorful; numerous pages feature purplish backgrounds. Humans present White. A Spanish version publishes simultaneously.

This isn’t a Halloween treat to savor; skip it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-84-17673-85-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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