A HOME UNDER THE STARS

An empathetic, encouraging story for readers dealing with change.

Sometimes helping others is the path to finding what you need to feel whole.

Toby is reluctant to move to the city, where he’ll miss seeing the stars in the sky like he could before. His moms attempt to help him feel more comfortable in his new home with some DIY paper star cutouts, which Toby rejects in anger. While he’s lying sleepless without his stars, Toby is visited by a lost lion. Together, they travel through a dreamlike landscape searching for the missing stars. Along the way, they encounter a crying unicorn, a forgetful rabbit, and a lonely ram, among others. Toby and the animals are united in their uneasiness about living in the big city and encourage one another to remain hopeful. An encounter with a fierce dragon proves to be the perspective shift that Toby and the animals need to find their stars and the way home. The animals take their places in the sky as constellations; Toby realizes that his beloved stars are present even if he can’t see them in the city, and he helps his moms complete their paper decorations to adorn their new home. Messages of support and the importance of a positive mindset are extended with bright, painterly illustrations that brim with movement, shifts in relative size enhancing both emotional impact and fantastic feel. Toby and his moms are all characters of color; one mom presents Asian and the other, Black.

An empathetic, encouraging story for readers dealing with change. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63217-327-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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