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A well-played serenade to the power of kindness and community.

Newly arrived in Delaware from Jamaica, Marley is determined to make new friends by performing an outdoor family concert for her neighbors.

The weather, however, has other plans. Marley’s parents and older sister seem ready for a rain check as a downpour drags on outside, but Marley and her two younger brothers, Axel and Zayne, won’t be dissuaded. “You can’t fix a problem until you look at it up close,” Marley tells her mother, then the three children don rain gear and head for the park. Having experienced tropical storms back in Jamaica, Marley decides that the concert can go on if many umbrellas are hung from the overhead stage lights. “Who has that many umbrellas?” Axel asks skeptically. Marley decides they will help their neighbors with their storm problems in exchange for umbrellas. The siblings cheerfully and determinedly rescue a cat, bail out a flooded basement, and pick produce in a greenhouse. The plan works well until they meet someone who needs all the umbrellas they have collected. There is a small moment of hesitation when Marley’s smile loses its sunniness, but she and her brothers head home empty-handed. The ending is both unsurprising and gratifying. The vibrant digital watercolor-and-crayon illustrations coupled with the communal focus of the text set a positive tone throughout. The joy of music is present in textual metaphors as well as visual representations of instruments and musical notes, even in the endpapers. Marley and her family are Black, while the neighbors have skin tones that range from pale to dark.

A well-played serenade to the power of kindness and community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30111-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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