The New Kid Has Fleas: A Picture Book Review

The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Eda KabanNo one is sure about the new kid. She is quiet with curly red hair. But that’s not the weird part. There’s something distinctly canine in her shadow. She doesn’t wear shoes. She might even have fleas.

When he’s paired with the new kid for a project, one boy doesn’t know what to expect. But as they work together he realizes that even though she’s a little different, some things like caring parents and afterschool snacks, remain the same in The New Kid Has Fleas (2021) by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Eda Kaban.

Find it on Bookshop.

Dyckman’s text is brief and to the point as our non-new kid narrator expresses concerns about the new kid. Kaban’s digitally painted, cartoon style illustrations tease out the subtext of the story as the new kid is seen with a distinctly wolf-like shadow among other oddities in class. Our narrator and the new kid are presented as white (or at least light skinned) with varied skintones among the rest of the class.

When mean girl Molly starts a rumor that the new kid has fleas, our narrator is very worried about working together on a project–perhaps fairly when he finds out the new kid has literally been raised by wolves. But despite their (big) differences the new kid’s parents are doting and conscientious. Things like after school snacks are different (roasted squirrel anyone) but still good.

Molly’s rumor backfires when she’s the one who ends up out of school with lice. Whether she has learned her lesson or refuses to see the error of her ways is left to readers’ imaginations and not addressed in the story. While our narrator isn’t sure about a lot of other things at the end of the story he is sure that Kiki is no longer the new kid–she’s just a new friend.

The New Kid Has Fleas has a lot of interplay between what’s shown in the pictures and what is being said in the text which makes this a good one to read through a couple of times. This text vs. subtext dynamic will make it fun for one-on-one readings or with smaller groups–Kaban’s detailed illustrations may not translate as well to a larger setting if the images are not clearly visible to all readers.

Kids literally raised by wolves are always a favorite in the picture book scene and this one is a fun addition to that niche genre. The New Kids Has Fleas is also ideal for anyone looking for stories about making friends, embracing differences, or going to school.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Wolfie the Bunny: A Picture Book Review

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHoraWhen a baby wolf is left on the doorstep of the Bunny family, Dot has some serious concerns. Much to Dot’s dismay she is alone in her fears as Mama and Papa soon adopt the abandoned wolf. Dot remains worried about Wolfie as he grows and becomes much more likely to eat them all up. Worse, Wolfie really loves Dot–so much so that he spends all of his time following Dot around and even drooling on her!

Dot is certain Wolfie could not be more annoying until she and Wolfie go to the local co-op The Carrot Patch to get more food for the family. Dot is sure this moment will be when Wolfie chooses to make his move and eat her. Instead, when a mean (big) bear shows up, it’s Wolfie who is in peril. And Dot who is left to do the rescuing in Wolfie the Bunny (2015) by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora.

Ame Dyckman returns with another delightful story in this picture book about a wolf in rabbit’s clothing. Wolfie the Bunny is a riotous story that leaves readers wondering if Dot’s fears really are warranted until the last moment when readers (and Dot) realize that being family means being there for each other no matter what.

OHora brings an extra dimension to the story as he moves Wolfie and company from what could have been a natural setting into the wilds of Brooklyn. His signature style and bold colors in each acrylic painting guarantee that these illustrations will stand up to close scrutiny as well as being viewed from a distance.

Bold text and a variety of font faces work to add further interest to each page as each page spread comes together seamlessly to create an engrossing read.

Wolfie the Bunny is a story about new babies, sibling rivalry and unconditional love (and maybe carrots) that is brimming over with humor and enthusiastic energy. Ideal for any story time scenario.

You can also read my interview with Ame and Zachariah!

The Wolf Princess: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn ConstableSophie Smith has never been special or interesting. She is the poor girl at her elite private school complete with her shabby clothes, unbrushed hair and callous guardian.

Sophie thinks things might have gone differently if she wasn’t an orphan. But she is. Trapped in her grey English boarding school. Trapped in her grey boring life even as dreams of winter in Russia, majestic wolves and a strange forest haunt her.

Nothing interesting ever happens to Sophie. She wouldn’t expect anything different.

Then a stranger comes to the school and invites Sophie and her roommates–glamorous Delphine and bookish Marianne–on a school trip to St. Petersburg.

The following adventure is even more than Sophie could hope for as they girls are abandoned in a blizzard and whisked away to a wintry palace to rival Sophie’s grandest dreams in The Wolf Princess (2012) by Cathryn Constable.

I went into this book with high expectations and only a vague sense of what to expect beyond a rags to riches fairy tale story.

In a way that is exactly what The Wolf Princess delivers. But in other ways it was a disappointment.

Sophie is fascinated with Russia in a way that should be endearing and draw readers in as well. Instead it comes off as vaguely condescending as she describes Russian words knocking into each other and, at one point, describes a Russian character’s handwriting as distinctly foreign.

All of the characters in the story feel like caricatures complete with an icy winter princess, a sturdy Russian officer and, of course, one friend who is defined solely as being glamorous and half-French (no, really) and another who is interesting only in that she is intelligent (I don’t even remember if we were ever told her hair color).

Beyond that Sophie is infuriating. She is a mousey heroine with absolutely know self-confidence. Instead of blossoming or coming into her own as the story progresses Sophie continues to doubt herself and remind readers and her friends that she is decidedly not special. Worse, her friends are quick to agree.

The book is also oddly out of time. Reference to cell phones suggest the book is set in the present although the atmosphere and attitudes of the characters seem to suggest an earlier time period. The characters are similarly ageless. The Wolf Princess is marketed for ages 10-14 meaning, because the ages are never implicitly stated, there is a huge spread for how old the characters can be. Taken as a middle grade novel Sophie’s behavior might make more sense but I doubt it would make her more tolerable.

This story is likely to appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books or wants a riff on the tropes found in A Little Princess. However readers should be wary of the flaws in certain aspects of The Wolf Princess.

Possible Pairings: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*