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Children less patient (or good-natured) than Johnny aren’t likely to take a cue from his example, but the episode certainly...

Family and community values underpin this tale of a young Ojibwe child forced to wait while local elders get first crack at a communal feast.

“I like to EAT, EAT, EAT,” is Johnny’s constant refrain as his grandma repeatedly restrains him from chowing down on wild rice, fry bread and luscious sweet rolls before and during a banquet at the community center: “Bekaa,” wait, she admonishes, “we let the elders eat first.” So well does Johnny finally absorb this lesson that, when his turn does at last come, he hesitates not at all to call an elderly latecomer over to take his seat at the table before grabbing a single bite. Happily, instead of eating, she plunks him in her lap, and after that, it’s goodbye, sweet roll. Ballinger’s illustrations are clearly influenced by an animation aesthetic, and young readers may find the huge, staring eyes and oddly contorted mouths of the figures a distraction, but it’s great to see a trim, modern grandma in jeans and a baseball cap, her hair initially tied back with a scrunchie. In both text and illustrations, the attitude-modeling is delivered in a gentle, nonlecturing way. Both author and illustrator are members of the Milles Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Children less patient (or good-natured) than Johnny aren’t likely to take a cue from his example, but the episode certainly opens the way to further discussion and socialization. (Ojibwe glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-87351-926-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day.

In this picture book from pop star Kevin Jonas and his wife, TV personality Danielle Jonas, a rainy day forces a child to find an alternate way to enjoy the beach.

Family beach day is one of Bella’s favorite things. She loves splashing in the waves, jumping from rock to rock, and building sand castles. Today, however, the weather isn’t cooperating, but Bella isn’t upset. “It will just have to stop raining. That’s all.” Disappointment sets in when her family tells her that beach day is off. Teary Bella rejects suggested indoor pastimes like board games, musical jam sessions, or reading stories together, and she retreats to her room. Dejected, Bella consoles herself with her stuffed bunny, Mr. Bonkers, until her parents and sister, Emma, knock on her door with a surprise: “BEDROOM BEACH DAY!” With just a few household items—a big lamp for the sun, a fan for the ocean breeze, a blue blanket for water, and pillows for rocks—and a large dose of imagination, Bella’s bedroom is transformed. A flexible attitude from all helps Bella—and readers—realize that things may not always go as planned…but sometimes they can be even better than we expected. Whimsical, cartoonish drawings and a dialogue-driven narrative turn a setback into an uplifting family experience. Bella and her family are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780593352106

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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