Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging.

THE SMEDS AND THE SMOOS

Two youngsters from mutually hostile groups connect.

This tale of prejudiced extraterrestrials jumps immediately into rollicking verse. “By a loobular lake on a far-off planet / There lived a young Smed, / and her name was Janet. / Not far away, on a humplety hill, / There lived a young Smoo / by the name of Bill.” The patter and nonsense words (wurpular, trockle) invoke Dr. Seuss. Smeds and Smoos alike have antennae and tubular noses, but Smeds, red, have webbed feet they wear bare while Smoos, blue, sport elflike boots. The illustrations’ eye-catching colors are intensely saturated throughout, sometimes jarringly so. Despite parallel contemptuous commands to “Never, never play with” the other group, Janet and Bill secretly bond and grow up to marry. “Janet and Bill stole out that night / While their families slept / and the squoon shone bright. / They clambered into the Smeds’ red rocket. / (Grandfather Sned had forgotten to lock it.) / Bill pressed the button, and Janet steered… // …When their families woke, they had both disappeared!” A multiplanet search leads to reconciliation and integration. This unsubtle metaphor for fixing racism and xenophobia ignores real-world power imbalances: The Smeds and Smoos may distrust one another, but they share equal status. Moreover, the notion that interracial couples and mixed-race offspring—a purple Smed/Smoo baby—are a solution for racism is false and places an unfair burden on mixed-race readers.

Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-66976-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and...

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THUNDER BOY JR.

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name.

The Native American boy is named after his father, whose nickname is Big Thunder. Thunder Boy Jr. says his nickname, Little Thunder, makes him "sound like a burp or a fart." Little Thunder loves his dad, but he longs for a name that celebrates something special about him alone. He muses, “I love playing in the dirt, so maybe my name should be Mud in His Ears.…I love powwow dancing. I’m a grass dancer. So maybe my name should be Drums, Drums, and More Drums!” Little Thunder wonders how he can express these feelings to his towering father. However, he need not worry. Big Thunder knows that the time has come for his son to receive a new name, one as vibrant as his blossoming personality. Morales’ animated mixed-media illustrations, reminiscent of her Pura Belpré Award–winning work in Niño Wrestles the World (2013), masterfully use color and perspective to help readers see the world from Little Thunder’s point of view. His admiration of his dad is manifest in depictions of Big Thunder as a gentle giant of a man. The otherwise-muted palette bursts with color as Thunder Boy Jr. proudly enumerates the unique qualities and experiences that could inspire his new name.

An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and son. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-01372-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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