Though it’s certainly well-meaning, it lacks the wit that brings such schoolroom dramas as Kevin Henkes’ and Peter McCarty’s...

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AGATHA

Even in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals of all sorts, Agatha stands out.

She has her mom’s piggy ears and her dad’s bearish nose, and even at family gatherings, she doesn’t quite fit in. At her first birthday party, all the bears from her dad’s side of the family stand on verso, and all the pigs from her mother’s side stand on recto, with a smiling Agatha in the middle. Standing among her easily identifiable, unispecies kindergarten classmates, she realizes she’s “a little different from everyone else.” When their teacher asks each of her students what makes them special, Agatha is so mortified that she hides. But everyone misses her, and when she pops out from her hiding place, her classmates find many things about her special: most of all, Agatha is best at “being Agatha.” The illustrations resemble pencil drawing with touches of color, and the animals look more alike than different, which may be the point. The story doesn’t have much of a dramatic arc; celebrating Agatha’s difference is its main point. Agatha herself is certainly endearing, with her green dress and red shoes and winsome expression, but a teacher asking each child what makes them special—using the tired “special snowflake” cliché—is an idea fraught with pitfalls.

Though it’s certainly well-meaning, it lacks the wit that brings such schoolroom dramas as Kevin Henkes’ and Peter McCarty’s alive. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0096-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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