Lemon Bird is a cheerful creature with a can-do attitude. She’s also just what she sounds like: a cross between a lemon and a bird. This isn’t so unusual in the colorful, whimsical world of this book, which has many such hybrid creatures. In fact, Lemon Bird has just made friends with one on the farm where she lives: the doglike, yet also pumpkinlike, Pupkin.

When Lemon Bird and Pupkin fall asleep on a farm truck, they don’t expect to wake up at a market far from home. Confused and worried, they start searching for a way back, but it won’t be easy. Luckily, this duo is so friendly and helpful that many people and creatures are happy to help them in return. But will that be enough to get them home to the farm? And why is another citrus bird—a smaller, greener, ruder version of Lemon Bird—following them around?

This is a gentle, straightforward adventure that celebrates helping others and making friends. In Lemon Bird’s first meeting with Pupkin, it finds the pup tangled in vines and hurries to help. The mischievous citrus bird Keylime is initially mean to them, but rethinks her behavior after Lemon Bird and Pupkin rescue her from danger. The duo also assist at least half a dozen strangers with a variety of tasks on their way back to the farm. Their kindness is repaid when the reformed Keylime comes to help them in a moment of need.

The real star here is the fanciful setting. There are lots of fruit-animals, including ones with punny or rhymey names, like the boarnana and pear bear. Some of them, like Lemon Bird, can talk to each other (but not, it seems, to people). Others, like Pupkin, may understand speech but do not seem able to produce it, and behave more like the animals of our world. The people we meet are also unusual: some sport pointed ears, and some have skin and hair in colors like blue, purple, and green. Every page is drenched in vivid, saturated colors that give it an otherworldly look, but also evoke the fruits that play a key role in the setting and its creatures.

In addition to being colorful, the art is active, making use of movement lines and varied panel layouts for a high-energy feel. In several places, we get a full-page illustration with a line showing Pupkin and Lemon Bird’s path through the setting, a little like a Family Circus cartoon. The sequential art often stands alone, as there are many panels and a few entire pages without text. The end pages include fun bonus material showing readers how to draw Lemon Bird and encouraging them to get creative with their own fruit-animal creatures.

While there is occasional peril – Keylime is menaced by what looks like a plum-cat hybrid, and Pupkin falls into a fast-moving river—no one is harmed. The danger serves mostly to give other characters the opportunity to come to the rescue.

With attention-grabbing artwork and a good heart, this fantasy romp will appeal to young readers, especially those who prefer their comics without too much text.

Lemon Bird Can Help!
By Paulina Ganucheau
Penguin Random House Graphic, 2022
ISBN: 9780593122679

Publisher Age Rating: 4-8

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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