It’s a successful visual metaphor but lacking in some practical application of text.

MY BIG BAD MONSTER

A little girl deals with an annoying manifestation of overwhelming negative thoughts.

When the monster is not cackling or blathering nonsense, it declares she has “a huge head” as she looks in the mirror and berates her comments as “dumb.” The girl puts on a hat and doesn’t participate, but the monster grows, lurking just behind her, until she confronts it across the gutter. She drowns it out by making her own instruments from household oddments—cutlery, tin cans, jars—and it begins to shrink. Eventually, she squashes the buzzing, fly-sized monster between two pot-lid cymbals—“SPLAT!”—and she never hears from it again. (If only it were so easy.) The text is very sparse, with far more sound effects than narrative text, so the story depends on the pictures to fill in the gaps, especially in the opening few pages. It would perhaps be best read silently or experienced as part of a discussion. Among her multiracial classmates, the white-appearing girl has a burst of curly, bright-red hair. The monster is an amorphous blob of shadowy scribbles with rounded teeth and flipperlike appendages. Kang’s art has the look and texture of colored pencils on ribbed paper, with thick, fluid lines and effective layering. Color sets the mood; neutrals take over when the monster is influential—the girl’s bright hair is literally squashed under the bluish-gray hat—and transition to a brighter palette when the girl is in control.

It’s a successful visual metaphor but lacking in some practical application of text. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2882-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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