This monster mashup of a new-baby story and a creepy-creature competition doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but it’s...

THE MOST TERRIBLE OF ALL

A monster discovers that another creature’s horribleness just might outshine his.

Smugg, a horned, furry, purple monster, consults his magic mirror each day to confirm that he is the “most terrible one of all.” True to his name, he revels in his status and is troubled when one morning the mirror confides that a new arrival next door is “a million times more terrible.” Charging into the neighbors’ house, he confronts the beasts he finds there, but each denies being the most terrible. Then siblings Jaws and Claws point him in the right direction: upstairs to see their new sister. What follows is a takedown of mammoth proportions as the big-eyed, blue-spotted baby misbehaves mightily. The over-the-top actions pictured are made all the more humorous by the deadpan delivery of the text. Rhyming couplets and internal rhymes are interspersed throughout, and a few nonsense words appear, but much of the narrative unfolds in simple declarative sentences. The illustrations, created in acrylic and oil, emphasize the ooey, gooey textures of slime and drool and the sharp, shiny claws, fangs, and horns, but visual jokes, bright colors, and vaguely retro details keep things more amusing than alarming.

This monster mashup of a new-baby story and a creepy-creature competition doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but it’s likely to scare up a few giggles all the same. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1716-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.

SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ

From the Questioneers series

Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact.

After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia’s nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that “being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you’re just in Grade Two.” Sofia’s courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty’s previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia’s leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts’ signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae.

Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3704-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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