A sweet pick-me-up.

READ REVIEW

I AM SMART, I AM BLESSED, I CAN DO ANYTHING!

Young Ayaan needs affirmations to prepare for his day at school.

Ayaan loves school, but today he feels “a little bit worried.” His mom notices that he’s not looking happy as he usually does. He tells her what’s bothering him: “Sometimes at school I don’t feel very smart.” In the accompanying illustration, he imagines his classmates all raising their hands while he frowns. Ayaan’s mom has an answer for that, and it’s one Ayaan knows. They say it together: “I am smart.” Ayaan feels better, but he’s still dubious. As his mom walks him to school, they see encouraging friends and neighbors, which prompts their second affirmation: “I am blessed.” When Ayaan needs to tie his shoelace, his mom encourages him to try it all by himself. When he succeeds, they chant their third affirmation: “I CAN DO ANYTHING!” At last, Ayaan feels confident and ready for a good day at school. The bright, saturated, animation-style illustrations show a small, brown-skinned Ayaan with bright eyes and a high-top, a brown mom with colorful locs, and a racially diverse neighborhood and classroom. Ayaan’s dilemma is a common one, and the open relationship and positive problem-solving between this mother-son team are cheerful and warm. Families looking to practice affirmations may find inspiration here. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 62.2% of actual size.)

A sweet pick-me-up. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20660-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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