A timely, eye-opening portrait of resilience, community, and hope.

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A SKY-BLUE BENCH

An Afghan girl resourcefully finds a way to accommodate her new prosthesis.

After losing her leg in an accident, Aria is finally ready to return to school with her new “helper-leg.” But all the school benches have been used for firewood, requiring students to sit on the floor—which hurts Aria’s leg terribly. In a montage of awkward positions, Aria attempts to alleviate her discomfort to no avail. Despite the other girls’ skepticism, Aria resolves to build her own bench, insisting she “can do anything a boy can.” When she consults kind carpenter Kaka Najar for help, he gives her tools and a can of sky-blue paint—the color of “courage, peace and…wisdom.” With help from her mother, her little brother, and a friend, Aria proudly builds a bench and assures inspired classmates, “We can build everything we need, together!” Gently but poignantly, Collins’ richly hued, cartoon-style illustrations convey Aria’s discomfort, determination, and joy; family members’ and friends’ warm eyes and sympathetic faces are reassuring. Background characters bustle in a rainbow of jewel-toned clothing, their faces bearing a variety of expressions. Though Aria’s accident is unspecified in the simple primary text, an author’s note reveals that Aria’s story, partially based on Rahman’s childhood during Afghanistan’s civil war, honors Afghan children whose lives were changed forever by unexploded ordnance. Most characters’ complexions, including Aria’s, are varying shades of brown.

A timely, eye-opening portrait of resilience, community, and hope. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77278-222-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

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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A tender tribute to the power of family in bolstering children making their way in an often unkind world.

A DOOR MADE FOR ME

Some childhood encounters take a lifetime to get over.

As Tyler, a young Black boy, rides to his grandparents’ house, his folded arms and anxious expression suggest that he does not want to go. A whole summer with his grandparents—who will he play with? But Tyler quickly becomes friends with Jack, a White boy about his age. The boys enjoy fishing in the river together, and Jack teaches Ty how to dig for nightcrawlers. One day, they catch three buckets of fish, and Jack decides to show all his friends. But when the boys knock on a door, a White father refuses to let his child come out—a pattern that repeats several times. Baffled, Tyler finally realizes the reason when one parent says, “You can come in, Jack…but not that little Black boy. He needs to stay outside.” Jack enters, leaving Tyler on the other side of the locked door, which changes everything for Tyler. At home, Tyler’s grandfather offers no easy answers, but he has words of encouragement that make all the difference. In an author’s note, Merritt explains that this story is based on his own childhood experience—which “left a mark on my heart that I would carry for many years.” Ollivierre’s illustrations, with deeply saturated colors, effectively capture Tyler’s sadness and befuddlement as he encounters racism from the White adults but also the joy and love that abound as the family bonds over a backyard fried fish dinner. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A tender tribute to the power of family in bolstering children making their way in an often unkind world. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5460-1256-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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