THE FIELD

Gather around for a boisterous game of futbol in Paul and Alcántara’s excellent picture-book debut.

To begin, the players assemble. With a ball at the ready, one young player calls on others—children, and even adults—to join in. Readers see a diverse cast of mostly dark-skinned characters often gendered in implicit ways. Everyone heads on over to the field, where each player warms up. As the group splits into teams of “friends versus friends,” one brave player shoos away the grazing cows. The game then begins. Basing the narrative on his experiences growing up in Saint Lucia, Paul weaves in italicized Creole phrases and words alongside their English counterparts in such a way that the text bursts with infectious joy. “Isi!” shouts a player, while another player cries “This way!” But suddenly, clouds block the sun and rain falls. “Fini? Game over?” Of course not. The friendly scuffle continues on the muddy field, through every splash, slide, and flop. Colorful and dynamic, Alcántara’s pictures depict an island community in lush shades of green and blue dotted with houses of bright red and orange; in one series of striking illustrations, the players’ vibrant clothing contrasts against muddied backgrounds. Watch the sun appear again when one player scores a “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!” It’s a triumphant, earned moment that lingers even as the story reaches its suitably subdued coda.

Irresistible fun. (author’s note, bibliography, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4312-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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