Somewhat silly but slightly muddled; look elsewhere for meaningful guidance on coping with social anxiety.

SO EMBARRASSING

AWKWARD MOMENTS AND HOW TO GET THROUGH THEM

A cartoon dive into all things embarrassing.

Intending to show that “the better you understand [embarrassment], the better you control it,” Harper explores several common categories of embarrassment (“social oops,” “it’s on you and it shouldn’t be,” “parents in public,” etc.) before including the insights of real-life licensed health counselor Grace Y. Lin (depicted as a pink hippo). A string of characters accompany readers through the book: Badgey, who has “badges for bravery and words of wisdom”; an unnamed anthropomorphic dog who never gets embarrassed; and a host of child characters who act as examples for different scenarios (and who have a range of pink, tan, and brown skin). Busy pages, a two-dimensional character style, and all-caps lettering give the illustrations a doodled feel. Harper’s ultimate conclusion that “embarrassment + time = good story” reminds readers that time—and a sense of humor—can soften embarrassment. However, the book’s center may be lost as readers become bogged down in detailed examples that focus more often on embarrassing scenarios than on offering tools for reframing thinking, making this very much not a book for anyone with social anxiety.

Somewhat silly but slightly muddled; look elsewhere for meaningful guidance on coping with social anxiety. (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-1017-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential.

WHAT IS A REFUGEE?

A straightforward and simple introduction to what being a refugee means, accompanied by glimpses into real refugees’ lives.

Sensibly depicted throughout the book as people of varying skin tones; with black, brown, blond, or red hair; of young or old age; and with or without glasses, headscarves, or facial hair, refugees are portrayed and described as “just like you and me.” They've been forced to flee their homes on account of danger, although many would have preferred to stay with friends and family, and are described as fortunate if they find a new country where they can live unremarkable lives. Gravel describes war, oppression, and discrimination as reasons to flee one’s country, but she misses natural disasters and environmental degradation as other potential reasons, and despite her repeated emphasis that refugees are “just like” readers, she highlights the stereotypical circumstance of refugee camps. The book ends with an engaging collection of portrayals of refugees: children from different countries speaking about their favorite things, followed by famous refugee women and men from around the world. Readers may find the single sentence that some countries “don’t want to welcome more refugees” inadequate. The emphasis on “more refugees” has the potential of shifting the conversation away from justice for refugees to justifying racist exclusionary policies.

A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12005-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A high-interest, empowering read.

LIVING THE CONFIDENCE CODE

REAL GIRLS. REAL STORIES. REAL CONFIDENCE.

An impressive group of girls lead with hope and confidence.

Building on the premise of empowering girls, this title showcases 30 true stories from the U.S. and all over the world of young people who are striving toward their goals. The title opens with a foreword by Olympic gold medal winner Laurie Hernandez; an introduction that defines confidence and explains why it matters; and a glossary of terms used in the book. The varied format, which includes Q&A’s and photos, adds appeal as readers learn about each girl’s story. The featured girls are diverse in ethnicity, national origin, ability, socio-economic status, and religious beliefs as well as in their accomplishments. One example is Autumn Peltier, a member of the Eagle Clan Anishinaabekwe and Wikwemikong First Nation in Ontario. She is a water activist, protesting the pollution of the Great Lakes. Yekaba Abimbola of Ethiopia advocated for herself and sought community support after discovering at age 12 that she was betrothed to a 20-year-old. Passionate about her education, she persuaded her father to cancel the engagement and support her dreams. Handling many subjects, from gender inequality in Nepal to disability access in sports, the stories offer efficient synopses of each girl’s journey. Each also emphasizes that success is not linear and that failure is a normal part of the process. The last chapter is blank, inviting readers to write their own stories.

A high-interest, empowering read. (sources & references, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295411-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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