There is no child who won’t empathize with Lucy and cheer for her reunion with Smelly Baby.

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LUCY'S LOVEY

A lost-and–found-again doll brings together the members of a family.

Devany takes several spreads to set up Smelly Baby’s back story. She is one of the white redhead’s 17 dolls, all with similarly interesting monikers and many of color, but she is the titular lovey and also white. She’s the only one to sleep on Lucy’s bed, and she goes everywhere with the preschooler. And although her name came from her original peppermint smell, it’s now fitting for an altogether different reason, especially after Grandma Nell’s dog, Stasher, gets hold of her, which is why, on the car trip home, she gets lost while being held out the window to “air,” her still-stinky arm the only part Lucy is left holding. Despite her preteen attitude, big sister Ivy is very helpful in trying to help Lucy come to terms with her doll’s loss. But then, all too soon it seems, based on the lengthy lead-up, Smelly Baby arrives in the mail along with a letter containing a sentence that may save other lost dolls: “How smart of you to write your name and address on her tummy!” She’s also freshly laundered. Lucy and Smelly Baby do their best to rectify that. Denise’s vignette and full-page illustrations portray the magical relationship between a young girl and her lovey, and the facial expressions, especially Ivy’s, are spot-on.

There is no child who won’t empathize with Lucy and cheer for her reunion with Smelly Baby. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-147-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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