While it is rare and refreshing to see a lesbian couple appear in a picture book outside the context of motherhood, the love...

PRINCESS LI / LA PRINCESA LI

From the Égalité series

This bilingual Spanish/English picture book celebrates an interracial love affair between two women.

Princess Li lives with her father, King Wan Tan, in a generic East Asian country where she frolics with a white woman, the red-haired, green-eyed Beatrice. When she refuses to choose a husband, the palace sorcerer obeys the outraged king’s demands, turning Beatrice into a bird. The two lovers are finally given Wan Tan’s permission to marry, however, after Beatrice-the-bird saves the king from being poisoned by the deceitful sorcerer. Repetitive, awkward prose (perhaps due to the translation) and cluttered, oddly distorted illustrations mar this already emotionally flat book that lacks either the visceral power of traditional folklore or the empowering message of modern tales. Although the moral is explicitly spelled out at the end (“Isn’t love more important than anything?”), readers are left with many questions both plot-related and philosophical. Why would a sorcerer so powerful need to resort to something as obvious as poison? Why must the author emphasize Li’s attractiveness to men? Why does the author repeatedly mention the same-sex aspect of the relationship but only obliquely refer to race (“Both were very different”)?

While it is rare and refreshing to see a lesbian couple appear in a picture book outside the context of motherhood, the love affair between Li and Beatrice isn’t likely to extend to their readers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-84-944137-4-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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