Fear of the unknown is the overriding theme, and yet there isn’t a satisfactory resolution—except for the very plump...

THE CHUPACABRA ATE THE CANDELABRA

What do chupacabras, candelabras, and cucarachas have in common?

Three silly goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep, live in precarious proximity to the nemesis of cabras everywhere—the dreaded goat-sucker. Tired of waiting for the inevitable visit from their voracious neighbor, they brave the night armed only with a candelabra. Suddenly the lights go out; the chupacabra has eaten the candelabra! In the ensuing chaos, the goats discover the purple beastie’s three favorite comestibles are candelabras, cucarachas, and—whew!—goat…cheese. They sigh with relief and make sure to keep the chevre coming. Aranda’s whimsical, Mexican folk art–inspired ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations are this story’s principal draw. The wacky villain is Easter-bunny cute (with the exception of its fanged shadow), and the mustard, pink, and orange goats are endearingly goofy with their exaggerated hair- and horn-styles. However, Nobleman’s slight and flighty tale’s subliminal message is troubling. The goats are so blinded by fear that they fail to notice that the chupacabra never threatens or demands. “Oh, would it be any trouble?” is its wistful response to their bumbling offers of food. Yet the goats continue to assume the perky winged omnivore has them in its sights. Aside from the initial confrontation, they fail to regain control of their lives. Instead, the hoofed trio voluntarily commit themselves to appeasing the chupacabra’s prodigious appetites indefinitely.

Fear of the unknown is the overriding theme, and yet there isn’t a satisfactory resolution—except for the very plump chupacabra. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17443-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A charming journey of discovery, friendship, and acceptance.

DRAGONBOY

From the Dragonboy series , Vol. 1

A young, White, perfectly bald boy wakes up and happily announces, “Rise and shine, everyone,” as his stuffed animal friends rouse from their slumber.

He quickly dresses in a green dragon costume, and, anticipating adventure, they all travel to a fantastical world. Discoveries unfold agreeably until they meet someone new, a rainbow-horned white unicorn named Karley. She is too sad to play, as Karley isn’t magical and can’t fly like other unicorns. Everyone empathizes with Karley and shares how they are different than expected too. Dragonboy declares, “We are already who we are supposed to be,” which brings forth joy and dancing. After a great day, Dragonboy and friends fall back to sleep as Karley heads down a different hall, back to her room. She falls asleep, content with acceptance. In this first of a new picture-book series, debut author and illustrator Napoleoni uses acrylic paints on wood panels to create a vibrant world. Vivid colors and enchanting, emotive characters work seamlessly with the text to take readers on a journey of empathy and compassion. Hearts are hidden throughout the illustrations, culminating in the final spread with Karley sleeping in bed with a pale, black-haired child named Molly. Molly’s headboard is rainbow colored, and a sign hangs above, reading “One L♡ve, L♡ve all,” opening the door for thoughtful discussion and eager anticipation for Molly’s adventure. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A charming journey of discovery, friendship, and acceptance. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-46216-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain.

THE SOUR CHERRY TREE

With ample emotional subtext, a young girl recalls everyday details about her beloved grandfather the day after his death.

The child bites her mother’s toe to wake her up, wishing that she could have done the same for her baba bozorg, her beloved grandfather, who had forgotten to wake up the day before. She kisses a pancake that reminds her of her grandfather’s face. Her mother, who had been admonishing her for playing with her food, laughs and kisses the pancake’s forehead. Returning to Baba Bozorg’s home, the child sees minute remnants of her grandfather: a crumpled-up tissue, smudgy eyeglasses, and mint wrappers in his coat pockets. From these artifacts the narrator transitions to less tangible, but no less vivid, memories of playing together and looks of love that transcend language barriers. Deeply evocative, Hrab’s narrative captures a child’s understanding of loss with gentle subtlety, and gives space for processing those feelings. Kazemi’s chalk pastel art pairs perfectly with the text and title: Pink cherry hues, smoky grays, and hints of green plants appear throughout the book, concluding in an explosion of vivid green that brings a sense of renewal, joy, and remembrance to the heartfelt ending. Though the story is universally relevant, cultural cues and nods to Iranian culture will resonate strongly with readers of Iranian/Persian heritage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-414-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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