Singer/songwriter Ashanti’s picture-book debut follows a little girl learning to accept and celebrate her unique name.

The story opens with a brown girl named Ashanti in a racially diverse classroom; she wishes that her name was “easy…like recess, sunshine, and skipping rocks.” Instead, she finds that her name is “a spelling bee for my teacher and jumbled puzzle pieces on my classmates’ tongues.” Her classmates call her name “weird” and giggle when she writes it on the board. When she cries in her brown-skinned mother’s lap after school, her mother explains the glory of her name and offers affirming words for each letter, like awesome, strength, and harmony. Ashanti wipes her tears away, and by the time they reach the final letter of her name, she is shouting, “An INSPIRATION! INNOVATION! A bright IMAGINATION!” with a smile and a triumphant stance. Her mother tells Ashanti that her name is a story, and the next day at school, Ashanti stands before the class with her head held high. Heartfelt moments between mother and daughter are the highlight of this book. Mikai’s speckled, pastel-hued art brings light and energy to the page. This does feel like a tale that’s been done before—the story arc is similar to Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s Your Name Is a Song (2020), illustrated by Luisa Uribe, and the main character’s physical appearance echoes Mikai’s prior picture-book art. Still, there is room for all of these titles on shelves. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-0632-2236-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


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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