The positive message of self-confidence and potential makes this work a valuable addition to collections in need of...

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I'm A Brilliant Little Black Boy!

Perpetually underrepresented in picture books, black children star in this tale about a neighborhood populated by kids with unlimited possibilities.

In this work by mother-son team Bynum (I’m a Lovely Little Latina!, 2015, etc.) and debut author Drummond, a young black boy named Joshua and his mother discuss the stars and what it means to be brilliant. “You are like a star / that lights everything / in every way,” his mother tells him. Her advice, “Be brilliant,” guides the boy through his academic, artistic, athletic, and social achievements. Illustrator McGee (Brotherman, 2016, etc.) peppers the background of Joshua’s room with details of his accomplishments: a poster reads “Student of the Month,” a superhero cape hangs on a coat stand, and objects like a basketball, a pickle jar containing some sort of collection, and a U.S. map on the wall suggest his varied interests. At school, Joshua shows his creativity and smarts by demonstrating pirate speech, leading a class experiment with a volcano, imagining colorful subjects to paint in art class, and freestyling poetry with his friends at lunch. He shows his bravery after school by rescuing a cat and turning a bully into a friend. Wanting to grow his allowance instead of just saving it, he starts a candy and lemonade stand before getting a haircut at the barbershop, playing basketball, building a fort on a community green with his friends, and finally convincing the group of the kindness in releasing caught fireflies. As the upbeat book closes, Joshua dreams of being an astrophysicist and embraces his bright future: “As I grow, and grow, / and grow…I’ll study hard / to make it so!” The rhythm in the poetry may not be intuitive to audiences used to formal ABAB stanzas, but by reading the text aloud, particularly the section on Joshua’s poetry, the complex beat becomes more obvious (“Hear my life, through spoken word, / my voice lifts like wings of a bird! / When I speak rhymes, then I am heard. / My rhymes fly free like flying birds, / instead, the sky’s painted with words!”). McGee’s vibrant images are full of detail, and he embraces a diversity of shapes and skin tones among the neighborhood’s black children.

The positive message of self-confidence and potential makes this work a valuable addition to collections in need of diversifying their shelves with illustrated volumes featuring modern black characters.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-55532-3

Page Count: 34

Publisher: PaperUp Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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