This sweet story of friendship is sure to win over even the grumpiest of listeners.

SWASHBY AND THE SEA

Old Capt. Swashby’s peaceful seaside home is disturbed when a gregarious little girl and her granny move into the once-empty house next door.

The only neighbor Capt. Swashby has ever wanted was his old friend the sea, so when new neighbors began to take over the beach—and even Swashby’s deck—without permission, he leaves a message in the sand for the interlopers that reads, “NO TRESPASSING.” The sea “fiddle[s]” with Swashby’s message and washes away most of the letters, leaving the word “SING,” which the little girl does “while dancing up and down [along] Swashby’s deck.” It changes two other unwelcoming messages to invitations for the girl and her granny to “W_ISH” upon a starfish and “PL_AY” in the sand. Then, after building a sand castle (following Capt. Swashby’s grouchily delivered advice), the girl is washed out to sea—to be rescued by the old salt, beginning a wholehearted friendship. The feeling of place is solidified by Martinez-Neal’s use of color, which breathes the life into this story; the muted beige, blue, and turquoise palette is perfect for a beach tale. The cantankerous old coot is depicted as a white man with an enormous gray beard while the girl and her granny are depicted with brown skin, exuberant Afros, and enormous spectacles.

This sweet story of friendship is sure to win over even the grumpiest of listeners. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-70737-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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