An amazingly astute, artful unfurling of tightly coiled childhood social anxieties.

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WHAT IF...?

Joe worries the whole way to his first party, clutching the gift to his chest, furrowing his brow, and asking his mother, again and again, “What if…?” 

They’ve lost the invitation with Tom’s address, setting them off on already-shaky ground. Trudging down his friend’s dark street, the two squint, trying to make out which door to approach. Joe’s anxious questions and his mother’s placating, mild responses appear in speech bubbles accompanying square panels that show their faces head-on. In delivering these snippets of intimacy, drawn flat and distilled in frames under the blue hues of twilight, Browne’s brilliance glows. As Joe and his mom work to bring each house’s interior into focus, readers both feel Joe’s anxiety heighten and see his fears take surreal shape on the page. Middle-class cottages with perfectly ordinary facades hold disturbing scenes and queer congregations, executed with marked specificity and unnerving clarity and color. Are those alien horns on that older bourgeois gent? Joe’s anxiety is sky-high by the time they finally find Tom’s door, leaving Mom to worry for the next two hours. At pickup time, Joe smiles, lit up inside and out, beaming golden yellow beyond the page borders, flooded with fun from a great party, one missed entirely by both Mom and readers.

An amazingly astute, artful unfurling of tightly coiled childhood social anxieties. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7419-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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