Lovely and sweet.

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A FRIEND LIKE YOU

As winter nears, a squirrel and a bird forge a friendship.

When autumn comes, Squirrel gets busy, dashing up and down trees to gather nuts. He’s in the middle of a good rest when a little bird lands next to him. Squirrel offers a nut to eat, but the bird eats only worms. A little gentle coaxing gets the bird to try it, and: “Nuts are delicious!” he declares. Squirrel invites the bird to climb, but he doesn’t know how. Instead he flies up to meet his new friend, sitting on the topmost branch of the tree and sweetly singing; it gives Squirrel goosebumps. Squirrel can’t sing, but he can hum, and they make beautiful music together. The day gets even better when they play and climb, jump and hop, fly and spring; and sing all day long! At the end of the day, they sit on the grass together, eating and watching the sunset. “And that’s how Squirrel and the bird stayed together. And it didn’t matter at all that they were very different. It was exactly right, just the way it was.” Schomburg and Röttgen present their lesson on diversity and celebrating it with a deft touch, their focus on the characters’ experiences keeping the book from ever sounding didactic. Julian gives both characters, especially Squirrel, sweet and gentle demeanors; their woodland playscape is suffused with bright, warm colors.

Lovely and sweet. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68010-031-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration.

I LOVE DADDY EVERY DAY

Children point out the things they love about their fathers.

“Daddy is always kind. He gives us support and shelter when things go wrong.” A child with a skinned knee (and downed ice cream cone) gets a bandage and loving pat from Daddy (no shelter is visible, but the child’s concerned sibling sweetly extends their own cone). Daddy’s a storyteller, a magician, supportive, loyal, silly, patient, and he knows everything. A die-cut hole pierces most pages, positioned so that the increasingly smaller holes to come can be seen through it; what it represents in each scene varies, and it does so with also-variable success. The bland, nonrhyming, inconsistent text does little to attract or keep attention, though the die cuts might (until they fall victim to curious fingers). The text also confusingly mixes first-person singular and plural, sometimes on the same page: “Daddy is like a gardener. He lovingly cares for us and watches us grow. I’m his pride and joy!” Even as the text mixes number the illustrations mix metaphors. This particular gardener daddy is pictured shampooing a child during bathtime. Más’ cartoon illustrations are sweet if murkily interpretive, affection clearly conveyed. Troublingly, though, each father and his child(ren) seem to share the same racial presentation and hair color (sometimes even hairstyle!), shutting out many different family constellations. Más does, however, portray several disabilities: children and adults wearing glasses, a child with a cochlear implant, and another using a wheelchair.

Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12305-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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