An adorable book about being true to yourself and the joys of family, especially cousins.

WHEN MY COUSINS COME TO TOWN

The cardinal rule of nicknames is that you cannot name yourself. Knowing this, a little girl is hopeful that this is the summer her cousins finally choose a nickname for her.

The main character, an African American girl with her hair in Fulani braids and gold beads, can count on three things every summer: Her seven cousins will arrive in the city when school lets out, they will watch The Wiz together, and before they leave they will give her an “amazing” birthday present. This summer, more than anything, she wants that present to be a nickname of her very own. She takes on the characteristics of each of her cousins in turn to see if their nicknames will fit her, and when they don’t, she worries that there may not be a name for her. On the last day of the visit, when her birthday present seems in danger of being lost, she finds a way to help and finally earns her nickname. Shanté effectively communicates the young narrator’s increasing anxiety as her birthday approaches, concluding statement after statement with worry. Morris’ illustrations complement this, the narrator’s expressive face and posture the visual embodiments of worry. Overall, they capture the closeness of this family, rendering their skin in many shades of brown and giving the cousins different hairstyles.

An adorable book about being true to yourself and the joys of family, especially cousins. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6722-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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