Arbona’s teeming scenes should inspire both close observation and new compositions by young readers/artists.


Braids flying, bespectacled Martha heads home from school, vividly imagining what’s behind the windows lining an urban street.

While Martha, looking up, traverses each otherwise blank, white verso page by degrees, each recto’s deceptively staid, delicately rendered window “opens” along a centered gatefold, revealing multifarious black-and-white scenes with decidedly surreal touches. Behind a ledge with drooping potted plants, a veritable torrid zone thrives as a gardener tends its elaborate flora and fauna. A shuttered window hides vampires playing badminton among a colony of bats. A dainty fringed shade obscures a woman straight from Grimm, reading 101 Ways To Cook a Child as her cauldron bubbles. (Her intended victim, ostensibly having consumed the conspicuously included How To Escape, bolts right out of the picture.) French Canadian author/illustrator Arbona’s wordless tableaux include magical mushrooms, bioluminescent sea creatures, a sleeping giant, and a cozy library full of reading animals. Kids will appreciate the use of “almost 20” felt pens for these pictures, whose fine lines, crosshatching, and infinitesimal dots evoke Edward Gorey. The visual mayhem, meanwhile, channels Jon Agee, Fernando Krahn, and even Mad magazine. The 13th gatefold lands Martha at home in a cozy bedroom surrounded by objects that were transmogrified in earlier illustrations and where, flopped on the floor, the child draws. Most humans are as white as the page; people of color are tinted gray.

Arbona’s teeming scenes should inspire both close observation and new compositions by young readers/artists. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0136-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Inspiring, adventurous fun for aspirational kids.


A little girl’s imaginative plan to become an astronaut and be the first to travel to Mars really takes off.

Together with a crew of stuffed animals (owl, rabbit, and teddy bear), Sadie Sprocket does her research, gathers materials to build her spaceship, and, with support from family and friends—and media coverage—embarks on her historic journey. Rhyming quatrains tell the story of how Sadie patiently reads, cooks, and records important data during the 100-day interplanetary journey. And then: “The Earth behind, so far away, / was now a tiny dot. / Then Sadie cried, ‘There’s planet Mars! / It’s smaller than I thought!’ ” After landing and gathering 20 bags of samples, Sadie and crew are stuck in a red sandstorm while trying to take off again. But with Sadie’s determination and can-do spirit, they blast off, safely returning to Earth with future heroic space-exploration ideas in mind. Spiky cartoons transform a child’s playroom into an outer-space venue, complete with twinkling stars and colorful planets. Sadie presents White while her encouraging fans feature more diversity. An addendum includes brief facts about Mars and a handful of women space scientists. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Inspiring, adventurous fun for aspirational kids. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1803-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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