Review posted May 9, 2022.
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 40 pages.
Review written May 3, 2022, from a library book
Oh, this book is wonderful! Don't tell, but this is a message book -- for the adults.
Shannon Hale has written many magnificent books, but several of them have "Princess" in the title, including her Newbery Honor book Princess Academy and her beginning chapter book series The Princess in Black. She's been frustrated when adults tell little boys that her princess books are not for them, even though the Princess in Black has a secret identity and fights monsters. So this picture book points out how ludicrous that attitude is.
As the book opens, a boy named Stanley is happily biking to the bookmobile.
A book called The Mysterious Sandwich sat up tall on the display shelf. Stanley liked mysteries, and he liked sandwiches. Perfect.
But when he asks the librarian if he can check it out, a very old man is there in her place. (I appreciate this touch that the role of mean gatekeeper is not played by an actual librarian.) The old man looks at the back of the book and finds out it's about a girl and tells Stanley he wouldn't want to read it.
Stanley really did want to read it, but now he felt embarrassed.
His friend Valeria comes along, and she does get to read the book.
But things start getting silly when the old man finds a cat book but won't let Stanley check it out. Instead, he gives it to a cat! And when Stanley asks for a robot book, he's told only robots can read books about robots -- and a robot rolls up and checks it out.
After another attempt to read an interesting book that has a girl as a main character, the old man gives Stanley a book to try and he goes over to the field where everyone who got a book is reading.
After that, some secretive trading happens, not only between Stanley and Valeria, but between the cat and the robot as well.
But as they are quietly enjoying books that were not authorized, the ground shakes because a dinosaur is walking to the bookmobile. The dinosaur wants to read a book about ponies. When the old man doesn't dare deny the dinosaur's request, Stanley gains the ability to speak up as well.
It's all silly and delightful and shows how ridiculous it is to insist that boys read books about boys and girls read books about girls. Because who's going to tell a dinosaur she can't read about ponies?