A reassuring peek that will assuage children’s fears about their own first days and their classmates.

THE CLASS

An original take on the first-day-of-school theme follows the 20 students that make up the titular kindergarten class as they get ready in the morning.

Ashburn and Gee do their best to be inclusive in every way—from the kids’ skin tones, ethnicities, and hairstyles to their personalities and behaviors. “Four are eager, up since dawn. / Three just sit / and yawn / and yawn. / Some are grumpy. / Some keep sleeping. / They don’t hear the clock beep-beep-ing!” Some laugh, some cry. Some have prepared ahead of time, with clothes laid out or new shoes or a new backpack, while others spend time looking for things or make do with hand-me-downs. Two fashionistas dress to the nines, while four wear shirts their moms picked out. From day-old underwear and nonmatching socks to an accident with a breakfast plate, forgetting to brush, and issues with younger siblings, Ashburn isn’t afraid to confront mishaps head-on. But after some almost miss the bus, a few get rides, and others walk to school, they all end up together in front of a welcoming teacher. Gee’s delightful tots are done in pencil and colored digitally, with a watercolor look. She captures each personality, and readers are sure to find at least one kid with whom they can identify.

A reassuring peek that will assuage children’s fears about their own first days and their classmates. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2248-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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