This celebration of a child’s agency in choosing a means of artistic expression strikes just the right note.

88 INSTRUMENTS

Finding just the right instrument to play means a lively trip to the music store to try them all out.

Of all the instruments that slide, squonk, blow, and honk, a young, white would-be musician must select just one. At first it’s a little overwhelming to be surrounded by 88 instruments. Patient parents stand by as the child experiments with an accordion, bagpipes, triangle, saxophone, harp, and drums. The variety of musical sounds is reinforced by rhymes reminiscent of Dr. Seuss: “Do I pick the squeeziest? / The wheeziest? / The easiest and breeziest?” The rhythmic, onomatopoeic text dances across exuberant watercolors with lots of movement. Characters and instruments are lightly drawn and set against a white background to great effect. Musicians will anticipate the outcome of this exuberant adventure from the title, as the child discovers the one instrument that captures the range of musical possibilities—the piano. For a book that targets the musically inclined, it’s unfortunate that design overshadows meaning in the cover art, where the title is backed by a bit of score that makes no musical sense, including two notes with ledger lines on spaces where they don't belong. The minor error can be overlooked in an otherwise delightful book.

This celebration of a child’s agency in choosing a means of artistic expression strikes just the right note. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53814-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain.

THE SOUR CHERRY TREE

With ample emotional subtext, a young girl recalls everyday details about her beloved grandfather the day after his death.

The child bites her mother’s toe to wake her up, wishing that she could have done the same for her baba bozorg, her beloved grandfather, who had forgotten to wake up the day before. She kisses a pancake that reminds her of her grandfather’s face. Her mother, who had been admonishing her for playing with her food, laughs and kisses the pancake’s forehead. Returning to Baba Bozorg’s home, the child sees minute remnants of her grandfather: a crumpled-up tissue, smudgy eyeglasses, and mint wrappers in his coat pockets. From these artifacts the narrator transitions to less tangible, but no less vivid, memories of playing together and looks of love that transcend language barriers. Deeply evocative, Hrab’s narrative captures a child’s understanding of loss with gentle subtlety, and gives space for processing those feelings. Kazemi’s chalk pastel art pairs perfectly with the text and title: Pink cherry hues, smoky grays, and hints of green plants appear throughout the book, concluding in an explosion of vivid green that brings a sense of renewal, joy, and remembrance to the heartfelt ending. Though the story is universally relevant, cultural cues and nods to Iranian culture will resonate strongly with readers of Iranian/Persian heritage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-414-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials.

THE WHATIFS

Worrier Cora is plagued by the Whatifs until she learns a new way to tackle her anxieties.

Cora has a problem reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Whatif.” As she goes about her days, the Whatifs clamor for her attention. These embodied worries are presented as needling little monsters that range from silly and annoying to frightening. They become especially distracting in the lead-up to her big piano recital. Despite all her preparation, the Whatifs latch on and won’t let go. Just before her big performance, though, an older girl notices Cora’s distress. Stella encourages turning around the Whatif worries, a tactic drawn straight out of the cognitive behavioral therapy playbook. By reframing and pondering alternative and optimistic Whatifs, Cora is able to tackle her anxiety and succeed. Both Cora and Stella have dark hair and eyes and peachy complexions; Cora’s classmates and community appear fairly diverse. Cora and her Whatifs have a charming appeal beyond their focus on tackling anxious thoughts, making an enjoyable read-aloud for wide audiences. In her author’s note, Kilgore describes her own anxiety disorder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51% of actual size.)

A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1029-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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