Energetic compositions and appealing artwork bolster this spy-friendly text.

SECRET AGENT MAN GOES SHOPPING FOR SHOES

A spy-obsessed boy must shop for shoes (tiger tennies!), and a newfound ability to tie them completes his mission.

Secret Agent Man has a big imagination. In his mind’s eye, raisins become jewels, fries are snakes, and everyone except K., his adult sidekick, is suspect. Together they canvas the sneaker store to find the right pair. The day is fraught with darkness and danger, but new tiger kicks help him roar to the rescue. Digital illustrations, done in a silkscreen aesthetic, bring the text to life. To convey the boy’s thoughts, Won fills the spreads with atmospheric blues, creating an air of mystery and suspense. Their retro styling echoes pre–Cold War minimalist propaganda artwork—perfect for a spy. He cleverly juxtaposes this with S.A.M.’s reality, done in bright, white backgrounds and cheerful colors. Text and art find their comedic stride when S.A.M. looks for K. in the Holding Cell of Despair (the toilet) and the Rocket Silo (broom closet). However, some readers may lose heart when they see how easily S.A.M. learns to tie shoes—apparently without practice! S.A.M. has brown hair, dark eyes, and pink skin, while K., also pink-skinned, has lighter-brown hair and blue eyes.

Energetic compositions and appealing artwork bolster this spy-friendly text. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7119-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014).

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK AND THE PERFECT PRINCESS PARTY

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 2

Princess Magnolia’s perfect birthday party’s threatened by constant monster alarms, summoning her secret identity again and again.

Prim, proper Princess Magnolia is all decked out in her pink finery, awaiting the arrival of a dozen ethnically diverse fellow-princess party guests for her birthday when her monster-alarm ring goes off. She changes attire and personas, becoming the heroic Princess in Black. Working swiftly, she saves a goat from a hungry monster and gets back to her palace in time to welcome her guests. But just when she thinks she’s in the clear and ready to open her presents, off goes her monster-alarm ring again! This pattern—Magnolia is just about to open presents when her alarm goes off, she comes up with a distraction for the princesses, defeats a monster, and returns just in time—continues through the book. It’s enhanced by visual gags, such as Magnolia’s increasingly flustered appearance, and hilarious depictions of the various ways monsters try to eat goats, from between giant pieces of bread to in a giant ice cream cone. A side character, the fittingly named Princess Sneezewort, frequently comes close to discovering Magnolia’s secret. In the end, Magnolia can’t take the constant interruptions anymore, yelling at a monster that it’s her birthday—the monster, abashed, ends up helping her in one last distraction for the other princesses.

A chuckle-inducing, entirely worthy stand-alone follow-up to the terrific The Princess in Black (2014). (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6511-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A strong series start.

GAME OVER, SUPER RABBIT BOY!

From the Press Start! series , Vol. 1

In a video game, a superpowered rabbit must rescue a singing dog that brings everyone happiness.

In the frame story, a brown-skinned human protagonist plays a video game on a handheld console evocative of the classic Nintendo Gameboy. The bulk of the book relates the game’s storyline: Animal Town is a peaceful place where everyone is delighted by Singing Dog, until the fun-hating King Viking (whose black-mustachioed, pink-skinned looks reference the Super Mario Brothers game series villain, Wario) uses his army of robots to abduct Singing Dog. To save Singing Dog—and fun—the animals send the fastest among them, Simon the Hedgehog, to get Super Rabbit Boy (who gains speed and jumping powers by eating special carrots) to save the day. The chapters take Super Rabbit Boy through video game levels, with classic, video game–style settings and enemies. Throughout the book, when the game’s player loses either a life in the game or the game entirely, the unnamed kid must choose to persevere and not give up. The storylines are differentiated by colorful art styles—cartoonish for the real world, 8-bit pixel-sprite–style for the game. The fast, repetitive plot uses basic, simple sentences and child-friendly objects of interest, such as lakes of lava, for children working on reading independence, while the nerdy in-jokes benefit adults reading with a child.

A strong series start. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03472-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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