Safe to stay home from this trip.

TOUCANIA

An explorer visits an island of fantasy animals in this Quebecois import translated from French.

Amelia’s off on an expedition. She’s a grown-up, but when she was little, her grandfather found an unusual island and told her about it. He went only once, and she too can go only once: À la Brigadoon, it’s accessible for a single day every 50 years. Amelia’s knowledge of the island comes from her grandfather, who’s invoked repeatedly. Frequent exclamation marks (“She’s smiling so hard that her cheeks hurt!”) don’t enliven the bland present-tense prose or successfully force excitement. The island’s mythical fauna thrill Amelia, but while they’re conceptually whimsical—merbears, hedgemunks, howlverines, koalaroceroses—both the animals and the setting are pale and lackluster. For an island with “intense heat,” scents of vanilla and nectar, colors that “overwhelmed” Amelia’s grandfather, and “beauty [that’s] astonishing,” the low-intensity hues are watery and washed-out, and repetitive background patterns evoke wallpaper. Amelia, like her grandfather, holds the title of “doctor,” but her trip emphasizes delight, not research. Given that, and given the implied tropicality of the island, the whole piece has a whiff of colonialist tourism: Amelia and her grandfather both carve their initials into a tree; the island has a “real name” they never learn; and Amelia presents White. Her grandfather, shown only in black and white, has a swarthy complexion.

Safe to stay home from this trip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2523-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

PIPPA'S NIGHT PARADE

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in.

AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE

A Halloween book that rides on the rhythms of “Over in the Meadow.”

Although Halloween rhyming counting books abound, this stands out, with a text that begs to be read aloud and cartoony digital illustrations that add goofy appeal. A girl and two boys set off on Halloween night to go trick-or-treating. As the children leave the cozy, warm glow of their street, readers see a haunted house on a hill, with gravestones dotting the front yard. Climbing the twisty path to the dark estate takes time, so the story turns to the antics inside the house. “At the old haunted house in a room with no sun / lived a warty green witch and her wee witch one. ‘SPELL!’ cried the witch. ‘POOF!’ cried the one. / And they both practiced spells in the room with no sun.” The actions of the scary creatures within may seem odd, but the rhyme must go on: Cats scratch, goblins dust, monsters stir, and mummies mix. Eventually the three kids reach the front door and are invited in for stew, cake and brew. At first shocked by the gruesome fare, the children recover quickly and get caught up in partying with the slightly spooky but friendly menagerie.

A good choice to share with wriggly listeners, who will soon be joining in. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4769-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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