An understated, appealing story with fine integration between the succinct text and imaginative illustrations.

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STAR BRIGHT

A CHRISTMAS STORY

This charming addition to the gifts-for-baby-Jesus theme imagines the origin of the bright star shining over Bethlehem at the Nativity.

In a futuristic version of heaven with connecting platforms floating in midair and computer display screens, a little female angel and her angel friends ponder the impending birth of a special baby down on Earth. The youngest angel wears a white suit with a long, white coat complementing her feathery wings and a white aviator’s cap, googles and scarf that give her the look of an early airplane pilot. She wishes she could give something special to the new baby that would be as comforting as wind, rain or music. When the angel notices that the world below her seems dark and lonely, she decides to remedy that as her gift. She soars off a huge diving board, floating down into the dark sky previously lit by only tiny stars, and transforms into an enormous star that illuminates the entire sky and guides the three Wise Men. The story is told with a light touch and few words, and the charismatic little angel’s transformation is a positive development rather than any type of loss. Evocative watercolor illustrations range from imaginative views of heaven with swirls of pink clouds to mysterious, deep purple skies over Bethlehem. Though the protagonist angel is Caucasian, there are darker-skinned angels among the heavenly host.

An understated, appealing story with fine integration between the succinct text and imaginative illustrations. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5858-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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