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This picture book about a gemstone composed of nightmares isn’t for little ones.

A tale from Italy via Australia that takes the shine off of diamonds.

Carolina, a little, inquisitive White girl, watches Mama don her diamond earrings as she prepares for a fancy-dress occasion. Carolina asks what the earrings cost. Mama doesn’t know; Uncle Winston gave them to her “because he loves me very much.” Carolina’s quick-fire questions and Mama’s terse answers reveal that Winston purchased them in Antwerp, Belgium, but the jewels were mined in Africa, where Amina, their Black nanny, comes from. When Carolina learns that Amina has no diamonds, Mama abruptly ends the questioning, grabs her clutch, and leaves. After Amina puts her to bed, Carolina dreams, starting with Amina’s digging in a diamond mine, where armed men kill and brutalize the miners, after which a sequence of black-and-white scenes depicts the journey of the gems, which pass through many middlemen, each of whom receives a cut of the profits. Finally, the earrings land in Mama’s hands in a little purple box (the only purple object in the illustrations—notably, a royal color), to her obvious delight. When Carolina awakens crying, it is Amina, not Mama, who comforts her. Greder’s haunting, dark, charcoal-and-pastel images capture the devastation, greed, and secrecy that accompany the diamond trade. The juxtaposition of Amina’s tenderness against Mama’s stern silencing of Carolina’s probing questions speaks volumes. Three afterwords reveal further truths about this destructive industry. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8-by-23-inch double-page spreads viewed at 23.6% of actual size.)

This picture book about a gemstone composed of nightmares isn’t for little ones. (Picture book. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-76087-704-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: A & U Children/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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

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