A charmingly illustrated book with a strong heroine, a solid message, and an accessible vocabulary for newly independent...


Pink, glitter, and a curly-haired protagonist shout out the girl appeal of this lesson about accepting who you are and how you look.

The heroine wasn’t born the spiral-curled child gracing the front cover of this debut picture book. Readers are introduced to her first as a bald baby with an already expressive face and active demeanor. Her older siblings don’t know why her hair won’t grow. But when it finally sprouts, Curlee Girlee sports a full head of out-of-control hair, unlike everyone else in the family. While her nickname is given with affection, Curlee Girlee soon becomes frustrated with being different from her straight-haired siblings and parents. Although her mother tries to comfort her, Curlee Girlee takes steps to fix her hair herself. The precocious preschooler attempts to use a brush and water but only makes her hair even fluffier. She tries a rolling pin but only succeeds in causing a kitchen disaster. Then she concocts her own shampoo from strawberry syrup, honey, and other sticky ingredients, but the mess only gets worse. Eventually, after a dream of magic barrettes, Curlee Girlee snoops in her mother’s closet and discovers a photo of a relative with hair just like hers. Looking different from the rest of the family can be hard on children, especially during their preschool years. In Twersky’s tale, Curlee Girlee’s ability to accept herself just as she is does not come easily, which makes her journey feel realistic and earned. Some children will never have the validation of a relative who looks like them, but the love the heroine’s mother shows her daughter, even when she makes mistakes, provides comfort and opportunities for parents to discuss distinctions with questioning kids. Wolcott’s (Dream It! Do It!, 2015, etc.) illustrations are wonderful throughout, capturing Curlee Girlee’s spirit perfectly, with the exception of one seemingly misplaced image that is missing all the goop she’s created. Curlee Girlee’s features are pale, and her hair is light brown, but the infectious child, the loving family, and the moral of learning to like your own appearance should ring true even for those who don’t see themselves reflected in the cute pictures.

A charmingly illustrated book with a strong heroine, a solid message, and an accessible vocabulary for newly independent readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9968438-1-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sandbox Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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