A sweet story that celebrates community coming together to create something wonderful.

ME, TOMA AND THE CONCRETE GARDEN

Two boys learn valuable lessons about the power of nature.

Sent to stay with his aunt Mimi while his mother recovers from surgery, young Vincent is less than thrilled to be spending his summer in a cramped city neighborhood. Soon, however, he meets Toma, a local neighborhood kid, and they spend their days playing ball and eating ice cream. Mimi asks the boys to dispose of a box of dirt balls that have mysteriously appeared, and what begins as a simple chore quickly becomes a project that breathes new life into the neighborhood and creates a sense of community that is stronger than the boys could have imagined. Larsen’s text works nicely with Villeneuve’s illustrations, channeling elements of The Secret Garden and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as well as such recent efforts as Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden (2009) in re-creating the drab neighborhood that slowly is transformed through the planting of flowers and neighbors working to keep them alive. The opening double-page spread depicts a city awash in grayish-green as Vincent arrives. As the boys begin throwing the balls of dirt (actually seed bombs) into the nearby lot, more and more color slowly seeps into the pictures until the garden comes to life and the neighborhood reflects all of the colors of the rainbow. Vincent and Aunt Mimi present black, and Toma presents white.

A sweet story that celebrates community coming together to create something wonderful. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77138-917-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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