This board book offers plenty of creepy shivers when you take a normal sort of already frightening creature and then extend the flap. This one is not for the littlest children, though it is in board book format. It’s preschoolers and elementary-aged children who will love the wild and scary nature of the flaps opening. You may think that a bat is already pretty scary, but extend its jaws and find how sharp and huge its teeth really are. The ghost is pretty blank until you lift its head higher and discover a skeleton and some bloody spurts underneath. The wolf has a jaw that opens wider and wider, displaying a skeletal Little Red Riding Hood inside!
The words take a firm back seat to the art in this bold book with each double-page spread filled with a solid-colored background that really lets the sinister art stand out. The book is a blend of silliness and scariness, with the first flap the most surprising as they all open much wider than readers expect. Expect a mix of giggles and gasps as children explore this one.
Not for the faint of heart, readers must take their own hands directly into the jaws of the beasts to see the surprises. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Margaret and her parents moved to a faraway place to be closer to her grandmother. When they got there, the rooms were bare and strange. Her parents sent Margaret out to explore, warning her not to go past the big stone. When Margaret reached the stone at the end of the garden, she could see the sea. And up in the clouds were unicorns that disappeared in a blink. As Margaret headed home, she heard a noise and discovered a baby unicorn tangled in the weeds. Her grandmother was shocked to see the unicorn, because she thought they had all disappeared. They had to get flowers for the unicorn to eat from the local shop and soon made him a cozy nest in Margaret’s room. That night, they gathered water touched by the moon, which made the unicorn’s horn glow. Margaret cared for the unicorn all the way until spring returned. Then Margaret returned the unicorn to its herd and its mother. Will Margaret ever see her unicorn again?
Smith has created a magical picture book about unicorns that isn’t sparkly and full of glitter. It’s a beautiful homey sort of magic, fed with flowers and moon-touched water. It’s also a book about caring for something but also being willing to return it and let it leave you. Because she knows she will lose the unicorn in spring, the entire book is filled with a wistfulness that plays well with the wonder of having your own unicorn.
The illustrations add so much to the appeal of the book. Filled with landscapes of moors and hills that butt up against the sea, the land is wild and wondrous too. There is a distinct coziness to the images, of a family that works together to create their new home and one for the baby unicorn too.
A lovely look at unicorns, families and love. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
This picture book retells the story of Snow White and the poisoned apple. This version focuses very cleverly on the witch herself. It tells of the hard work she put into creating just one poisoned apple and no more. The witch gets the apple directly into Snow White’s basket, but then her plans go awry as the apple is passed to the dwarves as part of their lunch. Luckily, none of them take a bite, instead sharing the apple with some hungry forest animals, who in turn share it with a squirrel looking for food for her babies. As the squirrel climbs high into the tree, the witch follows, desperate to get the apple back and give it to Snow White. But her plans continue to fail her as the branch snaps from beneath her weight.
Lambelet has very nicely twisted and fractured this retelling of the classic Snow White story. The book will work best for children who know the classic version, as this one quickly moves away from that tale and into a riff of its own. Snow White and the dwarves make appearances, but are not the main focus of the story. The witch herself stays at the center, conniving and evil, making this just right for a witchy Halloween read.
The art is marvelous, full of fine lined details that come together to form dramatic moments that fill the page. From the creation of the poisoned apple itself to the witch’s fall from the tree, these moments are elongated by the art and the format to great effect.
This witch-focused retelling of Snow White is creepy, dark and satisfying. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Cole has a favorite knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. So he writes Sir Percival a letter asking to be his assistant knight. Sir Percival received the letter and cried, because knights do cry and he too as a boy asked to be an apprentice. Cole had a lot to learn in his new position. There were many things to do and figure out how to help Sir Percival be a great knight: lugging stuff, getting knocked down, and cheering him along. Sir Percival was also terrified of the Underwear Dragon, unfortunately that dragon arrived and destroyed the kingdom. All of the knights lost! So Cole wrote another letter, this time to the Underwear Dragon. But dragons can’t read, so the dragon ate the letter and just kept on destroying things. The Underwear Dragon finally faced off against Cole. Cole was scared, but had also learned a lot of skills. He used them all until finally the underwear flew off, and the dragon left. Cole became a member of the Round Table, but needed a nap before he could choose his own assistant knight.
Rothman has created a very funny picture book that plays against knight stereotypes, making them marvelously open about their feelings. He has a great sense of comedic timing where the impact is increased by page turns. The book has several montage scenes of things like “why knights cry” and “what Cole needed to learn” that are funny and boisterous. The Underwear Dragon himself gets his own montage of things that he cannot read, which makes for great comedy as well.
The illustrations are just right for reading aloud, whether to a group or individuals. There are many sight gags, offering just the right amount of silliness to an already funny book.
Funny, silly and full of knights and dragons. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Books for Young Readers.
Stephen loves his Brooklyn neighborhood and spending time with his best friend Dan. Most of the time he doesn’t even notice that he’s Black and Dan is white. But when Dan’s cousin Chad moves nearby, he starts taunting Stephen for being a coward. As Chad dares him to enter an abandoned building, Stephen realizes that he’s the only Black kid in the group. Lately people have been reacting differently to him, now that he’s in sixth grade. People in the neighborhood suspect him first, assume he’s doing something wrong, and watch him in ways that they don’t Dan and Chad. Stephen begins to learn more about being Black in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fact that there are different rules for Black children and teens. But Stephen doesn’t want to be assigned to a lane and stuck there. Is there a way for him to make his own lane with all of his friends, Black and white, included?
Maldonado has written a powerful story that unflinchingly shows the racism inherent in our society, the differences between the ways that white children and Black children are treated, and the dangers faced by Black teens in particular. The inclusion of Black Lives Matter and the focus on the many Black young people who have been killed by police is powerful, strongly tying this fictional story to reality. The realization of Stephen as becomes treated differently by others is shone with empathy and a call for social justice.
The characters here are well drawn. Maldonado shows how being a white ally looks in practice through Dan, how being a non-ally looks in Chad, and the power of friendship across races. But this is not shown as a solution for the systemic racism that he also shows with clarity. It’s a book that will inspire conversation that is necessary.
Powerful and thought-provoking, this look at identity and race belongs in all libraries. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Based on the author’s childhood growing up in a Hmong refugee family, this picture book looks at the impact of poverty on childhood and the incredible importance of a loving family. Kalia grew up with her grandmother who had been born across the ocean and once threatened by a tiger there. Now her grandmother is old with only a single tooth left. The luckiest of the grandchildren got to help take care of her. It was Kalia’s job to trim her fingernails and toenails. Her grandmother’s feet were rough and her toenails thick. They were cracked with dirt in the cracks from long ago. The family didn’t have a lot of money so regular ice had to stand in for ice cream, peppermint candies shared together took the place of a new dress. Kalia grew tired of not having enough money for treats, eventually asking for braces to fix her crooked teeth. But the family could not afford them. Her grandmother pointed out her own single tooth, and suddenly Kalia realized what beauty is, and it was not perfection.
Yang vividly tells the story of her childhood, inviting readers into her childhood home to see the care and love there. The dedication goes both ways, with her grandmother offering wisdom and love and the grandchildren sharing in taking care of her needs too. The book steadily builds to the take away, a moment that reminds me of the Russian folktale about the little girl describing her mother as the most beautiful person in the world when by societal standards she was clearly not. Throughout the book, poverty is handled in a matter-of-fact way with love as the healing force.
Le’s illustrations depict a household full of children, plants and toys. The wobbly family table and brightly covered couch add to the feel of a family in need but making do together. The Hmong tales told by the grandmother are lush and bright, carrying readers into a mystical world of jungles and creatures.
A thoughtful and rich picture book featuring a Hmong-American family. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.
This marvelously creepy horror graphic novel starts with a man’s death by fire where a strange dog-like demon stays to witness and then reports back to a woman. That same woman has a teenager in the back of her car, hooded and kidnapped. Later at the hospital, it is clear that the man survived after all, but is terribly burned. The doctor helping him is surprised by a strange figure with two heads and a body sewn together who demands her help. With such strange things afoot, the story moves to Mona, a 10-year-old girl who gets caught up as the world turns to chaos around her. After being left home alone on Halloween, Mona discovers a huge horned creature on her couch. Running away, she tries to reach the police station and takes a short cut through the cemetery. It is there that she meets the others who will join her in her Halloween quest: a vampire, a ghoul, and a living doll. Halloween is just getting started!
A warning first of all, this is not a graphic novel for 10-year-olds, even though the protagonist is that young. Save this one for teenagers who will revel in its grotesque creatures and gore. The panels include maiming, death and dismemberment vividly shown, and often done with a sly sense of humor. This book offers a demon horde determined to take over the world with only a handful of teens and children to try to stop them and one rather inept mummy. The plot offers a satisfying adventure and hero’s journey through a landscape of horrors with pacing that adds to the humor as well as the fright.
Drawn in black and white, the illustrations are captivatingly macabre. Even the human characters like Mona have over-large heads, tiny bodies and eyes that look right at readers. Howard leans into the gross factor, creating gore in black ink that you swear is actually blood red. With a diverse cast of characters, including Mona’s parent who uses the pronouns they/them.
Perfect for teens who enjoy blood, gore and demons mixed with lots of humor. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Iron Circus Comics.