This book is the rare one that might benefit from fewer bold choices of words.

READ REVIEW

IS IT TU B'SHEVAT YET?

Not all surprises are welcome.

Almost every line in this picture book includes an unexpected word or two. The first sentence begins: “When we look out the window / at trees dressed in browns.” In a prose story, that might have been a pleasant alternative to “leaves changing color” or “turning brown,” but it feels shoehorned into this book to rhyme with “and smile to imagine their leafy green gowns.” The rest of the poem is just as contrived. It’s possible that the (presumably North American) protagonists’ family members in Israel really would “send pictures of bees,” but it’s more likely the bees are there in order to rhyme with the “pink almond trees” on the next page. The book does, however, effectively sum up the theme of the Jewish holiday celebrating the oncoming spring: We love trees! It even works in a welcome, fitting environmental message (though “recycle, reduce, and reuse” is awkwardly rhymed with “help spread the news”). The pictures are charmingly old-fashioned. They come from the mid-20th-century M. Sasek school of illustration, with bright colors and no black outlines drawn around the characters. Most of the characters are white and part of the same family, but two darker-skinned friends of the children show up near the end of the book to help plant trees.

This book is the rare one that might benefit from fewer bold choices of words. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6333-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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The tips garnered here could be used to scare just about anyone, and for those scared of ghosts, at least your carpets will...

HOW TO SCARE A GHOST

From the How To... series

Reagan and Wildish continue their How to… series with this Halloween-themed title.

If you’ve ever had a hankering to scare a ghost, this handbook is what you need. In it, a pair of siblings shows readers “how to attract a ghost” (they like creepily carved pumpkins and glitter), identify a ghost (real ghosts “never, ever open doors”), and scare a ghost (making faces, telling scary stories). Also included is a warning not to go too far—a vacuum is over-the-top on the scary chart for ghosts. Once you’ve calmed your ghost again, it’s time to play (just not hide-and-seek or on a trampoline) and then decide on costumes for trick-or-treating. Your ghost will also need to learn Halloween etiquette (knocking instead of floating through doors). The title seems a little misleading considering only two spreads are dedicated to trying to scare a ghost, but the package as a whole is entertaining. Wildish’s digital cartoon illustrations are as bright as ever, and the brother and sister duo have especially expressive faces. Both are white-presenting, as are all the other characters except for some kids in the very last spread.

The tips garnered here could be used to scare just about anyone, and for those scared of ghosts, at least your carpets will be clean from all the vacuuming. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0190-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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