Stick with low-tech for now.

PUFF, THE MAGIC DRAGON

An interactive take on the classic folk song sluggishly brings this familiar tune to life.

Leveraging both the striking illustrations from the 2007 book and the familiar music, this tale should translate naturally to the digital format, but the animation hamstrings a seamless presentation. Many scenes feature Jackie and Puff frolicking, but the two characters, especially Jackie, appear pixelated, and motions are distractingly jerky and frustratingly slow. Also, transitions between pages present long pauses during which the song continues, but the screen remains black. There are some pluses: Simple navigation enables readers to move back and forth by clicking arrows in the bottom corners of each page, while an additional feature allows them to jump directly to particular pages. Other interactive opportunities include clicking on stars sprinkled throughout the text and thereby animating certain creatures, swiping pages to the left and right to expand the illustrations and, in one instance, tilting the iPad to steer a ship. Readers can enjoy the book by following along to the song, reading to themselves or listening to a narrator. In the narrated version the words are highlighted as they are read, but in a few cases the narrator outpaces the highlighting.

Stick with low-tech for now. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic.

GRUMPYCORN

A unicorn with writer’s block turns into a whole story.

Unicorn has every writer’s dream setup: a charming, cozy, isolated shack well stocked with writing supplies, friends to bring him snacks, and time to write. But he “didn’t know where to begin his story.” He assembles his special writing implements and beverages to boost his creative juices. But: “I wish an idea would come knocking at my door,” he says, and in riotously colored spreads, supportive sea creatures try to help. Narwhal asks to be a character, Mermaid brings him cookies as a bribe for a featured role, and Jellyfish bubbles over with ideas. But Unicorn refuses to see these as anything other than distractions, yelling “I can’t get ANY ideas because everyone keeps bothering me!” After he throws his notebook and special pen into the sea, his friends find the empty notebook and decide to fill it with their own story, relating everything that just happened in the preceding pages with themselves in starring roles. Each spread offers a wealth of details for readers to pore over, and the goofy sea creatures are fun and clever. Silent sea horses, trailing in the background, help bring the story to a satisfying conclusion in the endpapers. This hits just the right notes, engaging children, who will want to yell at the stubborn unicorn, and making any procrastinating adults chuckle in recognition.

A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-61799-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Simply delightful (with a wry final twist).

INVASION OF THE UNICORNS

When an alien unicorn descends to Earth, its mission morphs from embedded surveillance of an Earth family to just plain fun.

Bubble07’s log entries, addressed “Dear Fearless Leader,” comprise the narration. “You were right. We look exactly like the toy animals here.” Should the unicorn army invade Earth? To find out, Bubble07 wriggles into an arcade’s glass box full of plushy prizes and gets hooked by a dad for his daughter. (Dad and daughter present Black; mom, seen later, is a woman of color.) About Earthling Daughter, Bubble07 reports: “She loves her toys. She loves them to pieces! Some are missing their eyeballs. Is this going to happen to me?” Biedrzycki’s expert illustrations form a hilarious counterpoint to the alien’s clueless reportage. They begin in grayscale, accented by Bubble07’s otherworldly streams of neon-hued sparkles, as the spy experiences family camping and “show and share” at school. The jealous family sheepdog tries to bury Bubble07 in the backyard, but revenge is sweet: At night, discovering “amazing” peanut butter cookies, the spy leaves the empty bag next to the sleeping dog. “Fearless Leader…I must get this cookie recipe for our planet.” By Day 50, a snow day, full-color spreads depict the unicorn integrating into family life, experiencing Earthling Daughter’s birthday, cuddly bedtime stories, and a sick day as stand-in comfort animal. On the home planet, Bubble07’s final report recommends: “forget the invasion and send more of us to Earth for… / …a Unicorn Vacation!”

Simply delightful (with a wry final twist). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62354-272-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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