Readers will root for Isabel and her colorful new beginning.

ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL

A first-day-of-school story steeped in vibrant imagery.

Isabel is anxious about her first day at Honeytree Elementary. Isabel speaks Spanish and doesn’t understand much English—she is scared of everything that could go wrong. Mami encourages her to be brave, and Isabel joins the class even though the swirl of language in her new classroom sounds harsh to her ears. Isabel compares the sound of English to the cold and stormy hues of her blue and white crayons, and Spanish to the more inviting pinks, yellows, and purples. A friendly student welcomes Isabel, but they have a hard time connecting across their language differences. Coloring time brings Isabel comfort and the realization that she might have a strategy for talking to her new friend that doesn’t require language at all. Isabel finds hope, and the English that surrounds her begins to sound less intimidating. Spanish words punctuate the English narrative throughout, and the full text of the story in Spanish is included on each page in a bright box. True to the title of the book, the pages are filled with colorful and inviting illustrations. Isabel and Mami have brown skin and curly hair, and her new friend presents Black; Isabel’s teacher and other classmates are racially diverse. This story affirms the experiences of English language learners while encouraging empathy for others. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Readers will root for Isabel and her colorful new beginning. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5341-1063-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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