ARC Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay

Author: Adib Khorram

Category: YA Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Dial Books/28 August 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37506437-darius-the-great-is-not-okay

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Darius-Great-Okay-Adib-Khorram-ebook/dp/B077WZ46TC/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/darius-the-great-is-not-okay-adib-khorram/1127582464?ean=9780525552963#/

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Penguin’s First to Read program. This book has content warnings for racism/xenophobia, homophobia, fat-shaming, depression/depression-related ableism, bullying, terminal illness in a family member, and strained family relationships.

This is one of those books that, after reading it, you want absolutely everyone to read it. Darius is such an intriguing main character, and Khorram managed to balance how Darius doesn’t feel like he fits in with either side of his family in a very delicate manner. Darius feels disconnected from his Persian heritage because he wasn’t taught to speak the language from birth like his younger sister was and because the culture doesn’t really “approve” of his medication for depression, and he also feels disconnected from his white father who doesn’t seem to approve of Darius’s life, constantly policing him for being fat and for choices he makes in his life. The feeling of being a teenager, especially a fat teenager of color, who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere was very well-done, and I really empathized with Darius.

As someone with depression, I also really loved the depression rep and the discussions around mental health in this book. Many people who don’t have depression don’t understand that it’s not a matter of “just being happy” and getting shamed for trying to treat it can be incredibly overwhelming. This part of the book in particular was one that I felt very deeply; it almost felt like a weight was dragging my shoulders down as I continued to read because this kind of talk is SO common and so harmful for someone who is just trying to seek help.

The romance in this book was very light and sweet, and I’m actually rather glad that it kind of took a backseat to the other themes in the book because this book covered so much ground and I think was stronger for having the romance be a little less prominent. This is a story about a gay boy, yes, but it’s a story about that gay boy’s Persian heritage and his family and how he’s viewed as a fat person, and I’m really glad that those things took the stage in this one.

I absolutely adored this book. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you really should.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: See All The Stars by Kit Frick

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: See All The Stars

Author: Kit Frick

Category: YA Contemporary

Publisher/Date: McElderry Books/14 August 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32718970-see-all-the-stars

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/See-All-Stars-Kit-Frick-ebook/dp/B075RQ3FQC/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/see-all-the-stars-kit-frick/1127208720?ean=9781534404373

Part love story, part thriller, We Were Liars meets Goodbye Days in this suspenseful, lyrical debut.

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for drug use, alcohol use, unhealthy relationships, and death.

loved this book — it’s one of those books that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the very end. This book alternates between two timelines: Ellory’s junior year and Ellory’s senior year. The switching was handled really well and really created tension and mystery surrounding the story, and it had me on my toes as I read.

The emotion in this book is raw and gut-wrenching; there is so much sadness and loneliness and it all really rang true to me. There is a stark contrast between the friend-surrounded Ellory of junior year and relatively-isolated Ellory of senior year, and it hurts to read, but it hurts to read in a way that made me want to share Ellory’s pain as I read.

See All The Stars dives deep into first love and teenage friendships in a beautifully heartbreaking story. There is a twist at the end, which I will not spoil, that really changes the way you see the rest of the book that you’ve just read. It’s wonderfully-crafted and engaging, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Anger is a Gift

Author: Mark Oshiro

Category: YA Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Tor Teen/22 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36142487-anger-is-a-gift

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Anger-Gift-Novel-Mark-Oshiro-ebook/dp/B0756JKLF1/

Barnes and Noble: https://smile.amazon.com/Anger-Gift-Novel-Mark-Oshiro-ebook/dp/B0756JKLF1/

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for death (including but not limited to the sudden death of a character), police brutality, racism, transphobia (including misgendering)/homophobia/queerphobia, ableism, anxiety/depictions of panic attacks, and graphic violence.

I have been putting off writing this review for a really long time because I don’t know if anything I write about this book will do it justice. This is one of those books that will make your heart melt and then proceed to tear it into a million little tiny pieces. The characters in this book are a delight — one thing that really makes a book great for me is when all of the characters in the book feel like whole, well-rounded people rather than just the point-of-view character, and this book nails this. The teens in the cast are almost entirely queer people of color, and I really love this because while many people claim that having so many queer characters in one place is “unrealistic,” it’s really representative of how queer teens tend to find each other and become friends rather than having a token queer person or two within the friend group.

The romance in this book is sweet and my heart is still aching from it. Moss is a Black gay boy and Javier is a Latinx gay boy, and they are just so damn cute together. The two of them absolutely shattered me, and my heart still aches because of how much I loved them.

A lot of this book can be hard to swallow because much of it is very graphic. Episodes of graphic police brutality in the book don’t just focus on race (though they definitely still do); they also show how that racism is combined with queerphobia and ableism and how these communities are affected. The intersectionality of this book is beautifully done and it opens up a lot of discussions about how institutionalized oppression works on multiple axes. It’s good to know going into it that these scenes are brutal, though; if you’re sensitive to violence toward trans or disabled people, this is something to be aware of.

This is easily one of my favorite reads of 2018, and it’s definitely one that I will want to read again in the future. Please read this one.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: When the Beat Drops by Anna Hecker

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: When the Beat Drops

Author: Anna Hecker

Category: YA Contemporary

Publisher/Date: Sky Pony Press/1 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35217468-when-the-beat-drops

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/When-Beat-Drops-Anna-Hecker-ebook/dp/B073XTGZFX/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-the-beat-drops-anna-hecker/1126763769?ean=9781510733336#/

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing…and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. Suddenly trumpet practice and old friendships are taking a backseat to packed dance floors, sun-soaked music festivals, outsized personalities, and endless beats.

But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. Music is what brought them together…but will it also tear them apart?

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for drug use, abusive relationships (between a teen and a college student), overdose, death, and hospitals.

I loved this book. I was immediately captivated by Mira, our biracial (Black and white) classical musician-turned-DJ main character who used music to escape the stress of her family life. One of my favorite things in books is when characters are passionate about something, and Mira’s passion for music steals the show. Even better, the evolving nature of her interests rang so true and showed wonderful growth in her character.

Mira’s complicated relationships with the people around her were also fantastic. She struggled with feeling inferior to her college-aged sister, with her parents who seemed to favor her sister over her, with her best friends who went off to music camp without her, with her new friend who got her into DJing but her new boyfriend keeps trying to warn her away from, and with her new boyfriend whom other people keep trying to warn her away from. She clearly cares very deeply about the people around her, and her relationships are intimate and complex.

The writing itself is also enchanting and really draws you in — this was a really quick read for me because the writing itself was just so lovely and drew me in. This made the story even more heartbreaking at points; if you’re at all sensitive to reading descriptions of drug overdoses, this probably isn’t the book for you. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a really good book about people and rave culture and teen angst, this is a good choice.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Authors: Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson

Category: Non-fiction comic (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Limerence Press/12 June 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36580693-a-quick-easy-guide-to-they-them-pronouns

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Quick-Easy-Guide-They-Pronouns-ebook/dp/B07DD6H2WQ/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-quick-easy-guide-to-they-them-pronouns-archie-bongiovanni/1128110826?ean=9781620104996

Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. A quick and easy resource for people who use they/them pronouns, and people who want to learn more!

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. This book has content warnings for depictions of misgendering (not condoned).

As someone who uses they/them pronouns and has to deal with getting misgendered on a regular basis, this guide was incredibly validating and also very thorough. Not only does it give solid examples of how to use they/them pronouns in conversation, but it also addresses why people should use them when they are asked and how it feels if they don’t. Archie and Tristan present two different perspectives — one from someone who uses they/them pronouns and one from someone who doesn’t — that are intricately woven together to form the narrative, and it really works because it is hard to get people to understand this stuff. People argue that it’s “bad grammar” (it’s not) or “unnatural” (nope) or “too hard” (you probably do it every day), and it’s demeaning and exhausting. Tristan’s portion of the narrative shows exactly what being a good ally should look like, and Archie’s portion also shows a variety of methods that they/them pronoun-users can utilize to advocate for themselves.

Additionally, this book is just a delight to read. The text is fantastic, and the illustrations are wonderfully done and a joy to look at. It’s informative and funny, and the comics form does an excellent job of utilizing emotion to get the point across. This book is one of the reasons why I love comics — there are few other forms that can get emotions across like this.

I have two small criticisms. First, I do wish that more people involved with this book besides Archie used they/them pronouns, although I really appreciate how everyone credited for working on this book had their pronouns listed out to make it clear who was working from personal experience and who wasn’t. Second, I don’t actually recommend asking people to say their pronouns in public situations because that is essentially asking someone to out themself, and not everyone is comfortable with that. In many cases, it’s possible that someone will either be forced to come out or forced to misgender themself, and neither of those options are very appealing to us. Dealing with this is a tricky thing, but I think more discussion needs to take place around it.

Aside from those two small things, I adored this! I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for something to hand to those people who insist on misgendering you repeatedly (or insists that “theirs” is not a real word… Yes, I actually got that once) and you want them to knock it off.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: The Girl and the Grove by Eric Smith

Image of book cover from GoodreadsTitle: The Girl and the Grove

Author: Eric Smith

Category: YA Paranormal

Publisher/Date: Flux/8 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35059797-the-girl-and-the-grove

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Girl-Grove-Eric-Smith-ebook/dp/B07BHQHXHB/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-and-the-grove-eric-smith/1127035191?ean=9781635830187

Teenager Leila’s life is full of challenges. From bouncing around the foster care system to living with seasonal affective disorder, she’s never had an easy road. Leila keeps herself busy with her passion for environmental advocacy, monitoring the Urban Ecovists message board and joining a local environmental club with her best friend Sarika. And now that Leila has finally been adopted, she dares to hope her life will improve.

But the voices in Leila’s head are growing louder by the day. Ignoring them isn’t working anymore. Something calls out to her from the grove at Fairmount Park.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for mental illness/anxiety/depression/Seasonal Affective Disorder, depiction of panic attacks, child abuse (mentioned), rape (mentioned), ableism, racism, and death.

I absolutely loved this book. The writing style is incredibly strong, and I connected with the characters near-instantly because of it. Leila’s mental illnesses were relatable, and her struggles with fully accepting her new adopted family tugged at my heartstrings. Her new adoptive parents, as much as they struggled with Leila’s difficulties with referring to them as “mom” and “dad,” were very sweet and tried very hard to give her a good home. Her best friend, Sarika, is also amazing and lovable and I want her as my own best friend.

There was lots of diverse representation in this book, from Leila being Black/biracial to Sarika being South Asian to group home/adoption rep to mental health, and I really appreciated it. Leila’s Seasonal Affective Disorder was especially relatable for me, and I loved seeing a character use a light therapy box as I regularly use a HappyLight while I’m at home and it really helps me a lot.

The fantastical elements in the book worked well within the world within the book; Leila’s interests are largely environmentally-related, and the magic within the book segues from there really nicely. It made the whole narrative tie together in a way that felt true to the story. Though the story is very environmentalist it was written without feeling preachy or overbearing; rather, it’s very immersive as if you were getting lost in the forest itself.

Overall, this is a lovely book with colorful characters and a well-rounded setting that is easy to fall in love with. Those who love outdoorsy stories with realistic teenagers and just a dash of magic will love this.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Herding Cats

Author: Sarah Andersen

Category: Humor Comic

Publisher/Date: Andrews McMeel Publishing/27 March 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35924705-herding-cats

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Herding-Cats-Sarahs-Scribbles-Collection-ebook/dp/B079JD9K2X/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/herding-cats-sarah-andersen/1126946455?ean=9781449489786

Adjusting to life as a world-famous cartoonist isn’t easy. Terrifying deadlines, piles of junk-food wrappers under a glowing computer screen, and an ever-growing horde of pets….umm, never mind–it’s pretty much the same.

With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.

I received and ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book has content warnings for anxiety/depression/mental health.

I’ve related to very few pieces of writing as well as I did to this book. I hadn’t read any of Sarah Andersen’s comics before this one and I was initially drawn in by her art style and (to no one’s surprise) the cats, and while both of these aspects delivered I hadn’t expected the very relatable mental health depictions that came along with them.

Many, many of the comics involved situations that felt like they had been taken straight out of my life — be it wanting to be alone instead of around people, doing a terrible job keeping track of time and panicking over my poor time management, or feeling like everything in the world is terrible except for my cat, I could see myself in so many of these scenarios. These comics are funny and personal, and they made me feel less alone as I read them. Sometimes everything in the world feels like it just sucks and the only good thing I can find is my cat — and that’s okay. Sometimes things are just going to be bad for me.

The end section about managing being an artist with anxiety was also a great touch, and I really appreciated getting another perspective on trying to balance mental health priorities with art. I felt better about my own work after reading this, personally, and think it’s wonderful for anxious artists who feel kind of alone in their situation.

Overall, I really loved this! I look forward to reading more of Sarah Andersen’s comics.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC Review: This is a Taco! by Andrew Cangelose and Josh Shipley

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: This is a Taco!

Author: Andrew Cangelose

Illustrator: Josh Shipley

Category: Picture book

Publisher/Date: Lion Forge/1 May 2018

Edition: eARC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37771276-this-is-a-taco

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/This-Taco-Andrew-Cangelose/dp/1941302726/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-is-a-taco-andrew-cangelose/1127173585?ean=9781941302729

This is a squirrel . . . “Hey, I may be a squirrel, but my name is Taco! And I don’t eat nuts and tree bark—blech—I prefer tacos!” The natural predator of squirrels is . . . “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Who is writing this book? I do not like where this is going.” This hilarious send-up of a children’s nature primer teaches kids that the most important story is the one you write yourself.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Do you need a cute squirrel book? You need a cute squirrel book.

This book is adorable. It reads essentially as a “guide” to learning facts about squirrels, and the main points are illustrated (and refuted) by a squirrel named Taco. The format of the book is witty and silly, and the deadpan manner of the narration pairs really well with the attitude that Taco brings into the book. Taco doesn’t agree with everything that the text says about squirrels, and because of this he decides to take over and change the narration.

Where this book really shines is with its self-reflexive nature: Taco is fully aware that he is in a book, and he and the other animals in the book refer to it as such. When the text starts to put Taco in a dangerous situation, he finds a pen and decides to change the text to put himself in a better situation. His red pen edits don’t change the original text (which I love; it reads as if Taco was just given the text and told to act out each page), but they do change what happens to him in the images, and it’s a really charming contrast. I love self-reflexivity in books, and this one pulled it off well.

The illustrations are a delight; while the text is comically deadpan, the illustrations are bright and cheerful. The animals (and tacos) are adorable and delightful to look at. There’s also an excellent use of lighting as Taco’s situation appears to be getting worse, and it adds a lot to the mood of the story.

Overall, I really loved this! Definitely recommended.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Category: MG Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)

Publisher/Date: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky/1 March 2017

Edition: Hardcover

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30095473-the-pants-project

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Pants-Project-Cat-Clarke/dp/1492638099/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pants-project-cat-clarke/1123725848

Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me. 
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

This book has content warnings for transmisia, homomisia, sexism, and bullying.

I just loved this book! It’s a book that has a clear message that it wants you to understand, and it manages to get that message across in a way that’s straightforward without being too in-your-face about it. Liv has a very large personality that shines through on every page, and I loved seeing him be so sure of himself. With how pervasive the idea that eleven is “too young” for a kid to know their gender, it was fantastic to see this book directly addressing that.

The sexism in this book is intense — Liv isn’t out for the majority of the book, and the stereotypes that are projected onto genders is blood-boiling. It was a constant battle for Liv, and while the antagonists of the story were aggravating it was great seeing Liv get support from others as he tried to figure out how to get the policy changed. The friendship between Liv and Jacob in particular was wonderful to see.

The diversity in this book was really nice as well — in addition to a trans main character, we also have sapphic women parents and a disabled side character, both of which we don’t see enough of in children’s lit. I was really happy with the rep, personally, and would love to see more of this.

Overall, this is a wonderful book. I want to see more middle grade books like this one — it’s definitely a must-read.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals

Author: Lucy Ruth Cummins

Category: Picture Book

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/15 March 2016

Edition: Hardcover

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25785644-a-hungry-lion-or-a-dwindling-assortment-of-animals

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Hungry-Lion-Dwindling-Assortment-Animals/dp/1481448897/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-hungry-lion-or-a-dwindling-assortment-of-animals-lucy-ruth-cummins/1122088305?ean=9781481448895

Once upon a time there was a very hungry lion and some adorable little animals…

What do you think happened next?

This book has content warning for off-page, implied animal violence.

I am not even sure that I have the vocabulary to describe how delightful I found this picture book to be. What I can say is that once I finished reading it, I reread it. And then I reread it again. And again. And again. And then I made my coworker read it. And then I read it again. And then I read it to a handful of other coworkers. And then I read it yet again, and probably a handful more times after that. (And then I remembered that I’m not supposed to be rereading books in 2018 and decided to justify it because I read this book for class and rereads for class don’t count against me. I’m not sure if I can justify 20+ rereads in this manner, but I can certainly try.)

You can pretty much guess what’s going to happen just by reading the title of the book. The fun in this book, though, comes from the multiple false starts and multiple false endings that are placed throughout the book. Every single one of them makes you either anticipate something horrifying or relax a bit more than you should, and the book really keeps you on your toes as you keep reading to see what happens to all of the animals.

The tone of the book is really light and playful for how dark the content of the book gets. The contrast between the two is hilarious; the first two pages alone were enough to entice several of my friends to read this book as well because the humor is just so appealing.

Lucy Ruth Cummins has written a masterful picture book, one that is appealing to not just kids but to teens and adults as well. I borrowed this book from my library, but I really want to own a copy of this book for myself as well. It’s adorable and snarky, and it’s well worth reading.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars