Sunday, August 08, 2021

ALL the picture books

Hale, Shannon and Pham, Leuyen. Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn
March 23rd 2021 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In the endpapers, Kitty creates a wonderful, glittery, rainbow striped unicorn horn, and when she puts it on, she KNOWS that she is a unicorn! When she looks in a mirror, a unicorn gazes back at her. Her friends Gecko and Parakeet, however, are not convinced. Instead, they tell Kitty again and again that she is most decidedly not a unicorn. Undeterred, Kitty continues to strut her unicorn stuff despite her friends objections... until a real unicorn appears. Faced with the undeniable majesty of a purple-maned, golden-hoofed unicorn, Kitty feels "no bigger than a ball of lint" and is ready to give up her horn and her identity. Seeing her dejection, the unicorn compliments Kitty on her fuzzy ears and silver whiskers, and pulls out a headband of fuzzy kitten ears. Wearing these, he declares that he is a Kitty-corn. The two rejoice in their kitty-corness and have a good time, ignoring the naysayers. In the endpapers, Gecko and Parakeet try to make their own unicorn horns, with mixed results. 

Full of feel good, on trend themes of identity, friendship, and "you do you", Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn shows how thoroughly some young readers embrace an identity, only to have others deny their claims. Kitty loves his unicorn horn and has practiced all of the characteristics important to being a unicorn, only to have his friends cut him down with belittling names like putty-pie and fuzzy-heinie. Luckily, unicorn is a more supportive person who sees Kitty's sadness and makes attempts at solidifying Kitty's unicorn identity. 

I've loved Pham's illustrations ever since they appeared in Snyder's 2009 Any Which Wall, and her Princess in Black collaboration is also wonderful. Princess in Black addresses similar issues of identity, always with a strong, positive spin. It's good to see that even though Gecko and Parakeet don't help at first, they do come around. 

There is a lot of white space on the pages; the characters float in it, without any background. This makes the characters really pop, and Kitty's vibrant pinkitude will appeal to readers who love that color. Unicorn's purple mane works well with this, and the text incorporates the colors as well. 

There are just not enough unicorn books around; I'm a huge fan of Simpson's Phoebe and Her Unicorn series, and I've picked up any number of picture books, including one I swear had BUNNYcorns, but which I cannot remember. Fans of Rosenthal's Uni the Unicorn, Blaby's Thelma the Unicorn, and Murray's Unicorn Day will appreciate Kitty bringing unicorn happiness to the youngest of readers. 


Ms. Yingling

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