Cuter as a child-narrated video, but the message is worthy enough to justify this less-evanescent medium.

THE CIRCLES ALL AROUND US

How and why a symbol of exclusion can be transformed into just the opposite.

The circle is depicted literally in the illustrations but regarded as metaphorical in the unpolished if earnest rhyme. It begins as a mark “on the ground [drawn] along each shoe” (and then, according to the picture, around toes and heels) as “a safe little place for just one person.” But that makes no more sense that a library with “just one book”—and so it should be expanded to include family, friends, and ultimately the whole world: “In the circles all around us / everywhere that we all go / there’s a difference we can make / and a love we can all show.” Expanding on the Instagram video from which this is spun, the simply drawn art shows one button-eyed, pale-skinned child with a piece of chalk drawing and redrawing an increasingly large circle that first lets in a sibling and their interracial parents, then relatives (including another interracial couple), then larger groups (diverse in age and skin tone, including one child in a wheelchair and one wearing a hijab). In subsequent views figures mix and match in various combinations with interlocking circles of their own while waving personal flags here (“I only like SPORTS!”; “I’m Team CAKE!”) and sharing doughnuts there until a closing invitation to regard “wonder-eyed” our beaming, encircled planet. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

Cuter as a child-narrated video, but the message is worthy enough to justify this less-evanescent medium. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32318-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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