Penny and the Magic Puffballs

THE ADVENTURES OF PENNY AND THE MAGIC PUFFBALLS.

A picture book that celebrates African-American girls’ hair.
Williams’ debut describes what happens when Penny asks her mother if she can take out her braids and wear her hair down like her white friends. Her mom explains that her hair is different from her friends’ hair but that there’s nothing wrong with this. Mom shows Penny pictures of many hairstyles, and Penny opts for two magic puffballs. When Penny wears her hair in the two fluffy pigtails, she has a banner day. She finds her favorite purple pencil, aces her spelling test, and at recess, she manages to jump rope better than she ever has before. She’s sure that her new hairstyle has given her these powers and tells her mom she wants to wear it that way every day. Colorful, cartoonlike illustrations portray Penny and her friends and help to bring Penny and her hair to life in a fresh style that never looks babyish. The book opens with a short message to parents and closes with a photo collage of real girls all sporting their own magic puffballs. Williams offers a positive message about black hair and a likable character in Penny; however, Penny faces little conflict. After the initial dilemma of her friends’ asking her to wear her hair down, it’s all smooth sailing for Penny thanks to her new do. Though nervous about a spelling test, the magic of her hairstyle means, “She didn’t have to think too hard. Even the tricky words just came to her—like magic!” More struggle would have added some welcome realism.
Younger readers will enjoy this wish-fulfillment tale, while parents will appreciate the upbeat way it celebrates differences.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0991212903

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Glori Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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