A visual treat for the young imagination

SUN

A boy named Sun has a close encounter with a fox.

In this immensely appealing fantasy, the minimalist text takes a back seat to the boldly colorful illustrations. The central figure is Sun, a young boy who is introduced as a “soccer star.” But this picture book is not about soccer—it’s rather about Sun’s awareness that “something was missing.” Observing that his younger brother, Pablo, “looked happy” while “making art,” Sun heads for the beach, recalling that “he used to make art too.” Awaiting Sun are an unexpected encounter with a fox and a rekindling of his creativity, expressed in an explosion of collage-style montages. The spread in which the fox shows Sun how to make art is a fabulously messy composition, colorful scrawls and squiggles in the background recalling Pablo’s exuberant experimentation on the walls even as Sun and the fox build sculptures out of found objects. Feeling “connected” at last, Sun notices that the day is drawing to a close and returns to an undefined “home” (sans parents), where he and Pablo explore their creativity together in a space that has the look of the outdoors but with those vigorous, unbridled scrawls and squiggles again on a blue-sky backdrop. The soccer-themed introduction feels superfluous, as the not-so-subtle message concerns the magic of art and nature. Both boys have dark brown skin and textured black hair.

A visual treat for the young imagination . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-78162-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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