For caregivers of extremely extroverted kids, Carmen’s ambitions will feel very familiar; for kid readers, Carmen and...

STARRING CARMEN!

An attention-seeking young star of imaginative stage shows—all produced at home for her Latinx family members—learns that sharing the spotlight can be equally fulfilling.

Carmen is a whirlwind of many talents, a “one-girl sensación” who acts, sings, dances, and even costume-designs musicals every night for her supportive but slightly exhausted parents and star-struck little brother. When her parents call for an intermission on all the show-business activity, Carmen sulks. But when she sees her brother, Eduardo, previously cast in nonspeaking roles (“You can be a rock”), has his own imaginative ideas, Carmen decides that her productions can be even better as an ensemble. Smartly, the narrative depicts all Carmen’s activities as creative work; it’s not just about the performance, but also building and rehearsing. And her parents (dark-skinned mom and light-skinned dad) accommodate her dreams while also realistically hoping to enforce bedtime and make sure Eduardo doesn’t get left in the shadows. The art seems to leap off the page, turning Carmen’s stagecraft into magic, whether it’s colorful pirate seascapes or robot rock operas. The mix of detail between home decoration and wildly over-the-top costumes and props is well-balanced and rich.

For caregivers of extremely extroverted kids, Carmen’s ambitions will feel very familiar; for kid readers, Carmen and Eduardo’s very fun activities might inspire some musical productions at home. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2321-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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