A feel-good picture book and a great reminder that classic princess roles can be reimagined to embrace inclusion, diversity,...

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NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE

A little black girl holds true to her dream that on the theater stage you can be whatever you want—even if it’s Snow White.

Tameika is a bubbly, outgoing singer and dancer who loves the stage. She has played various roles, such as a cucumber, a space cowgirl, and a dinosaur, but never a princess. This charming tale tackles the complex subject of biases around race and body image when Tameika overhears her classmates’ whispers: “She can’t be Snow White”; “She’s much too chubby”; “And she’s too brown.” Tameika goes on a journey of self-acceptance as she grapples with her feelings about wanting to be a princess. Glenn’s playful, animation-inspired digital art will enchant readers as it immerses them in Tameika’s vivid imagination. New fans may seek out her previous work in Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s Mommy’s Khimar (2018) and Michelle Meadows’ Brave Ballerina (2019). The vibrant colors and active compositions enhance the story, reflecting Tameika’s changing emotions and her interactions with her parents, whose positive affirmations help give Tameika the courage and self-love to remember how much joy she gets from performing. For kids who like to imagine themselves being anything they want to be, it is reassuring to be reminded that it’s not exterior looks that matter but the princess within.

A feel-good picture book and a great reminder that classic princess roles can be reimagined to embrace inclusion, diversity, and body positivity. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-279860-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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