Quietly, beautifully told and deeply satisfying.

THE LOST PACKAGE

A lost package finally arrives where it was intended to go.

An elementary-age New Yorker sends a gift to a friend in the Bay Area. Ho and Lanan skillfully describe and depict, respectively, the procedures of the U.S. Postal Service as the box begins to make its way to its destination. Alas, a pothole in the road to the airport causes the box to fall out of the truck. It lands in a puddle and is ignored until another kid finally spies it. Curious, the child picks it up, noting not only the recipient’s address, but also a drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge that the sender inked on it. Luckily, the box’s finder is moving to that place along with mom and dog! Guess what they’ll personally deliver when they get there? So the USPS doesn’t deliver the box, but this family does—and makes new friends. This sweetly simple, understated story is emotionally rich, a warm paean to the power of connections. Ho’s text places the box as its protagonist, giving Lanan ample space to develop the story around it. Her delicate watercolor illustrations provide clues to both cities, though interpretation requires sharp eyes and some prior knowledge (or a helpful caregiver). Engaging perspectives and effective uses of type add drama. The box’s sender and recipient both present Asian; the intervening kid and mom present Black. An afterword describes the author’s family’s moving connection to the U.S. Post Office. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 103% of actual size.)

Quietly, beautifully told and deeply satisfying. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: tomorrow

ISBN: 978-1-250-23135-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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