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STRUT, BABY, STRUT

A serviceable but not particularly stellar ode to female empowerment.

Kroll encourages girls and women along every step of their life journey.

A Black infant with Afro puffs shimmies, crawls, and wobbles. When she grows into a toddler, she meets two other girls: one White and redheaded with twin ponytails and the other brown-skinned, straight-haired, and cued as Asian. The book follows these girls and their friendship as they grow and change, with the text addressing them directly throughout: baby, toddler, little girl, big kid, teen, young lady, woman. The messaging is overtly motivational: “lean toward tomorrow,” “reach high, / for all your dreams,” “always do you,” “know your worth,” and “make yourself proud.” Glenn’s digital artwork is full of bold colors, background patterns, and smiling faces and refreshingly shows girls discovering their passions as they age (in this case, activism, soccer, and photography.) No boys or men are pictured, and the girls all resemble their mothers, missing an opportunity to show family diversity. There is, however, fat representation, and a background character wears a hijab. The story rhymes, but the text layout sometimes makes it hard to determine the directionality of print, so some readers may miss the rhyming pattern; also, the meter is often clunky and lacks polish, making the book tough to read aloud fluidly. An audience is hard to pin down—the simple presentation is ideal for emergent readers, but the time skips may fly over their heads. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A serviceable but not particularly stellar ode to female empowerment. (Board book. 2-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9859-4

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

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. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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