Fun and surprisingly successful as an invitation to look closely at the natural world.


From 10 black-capped chickadees to a single great horned owl, a countdown seek-and-find presents common birds.

Matheson imitates actual bird-watching with this deceptively simple “I spy”–type outing that goes from morning through night, through sun and shower, ending on the following day. Each spread contains birds (and sometimes other creatures) hidden among the kinds of trees and plants where North American readers with access to the wooded outdoors might find them in real life. It requires significant patience and persistence to find them all; the reward is a special surprise. The author opens with a “birding checklist,” invites readers to “go outside and look carefully,” and describes the chickadees as “your first treasure.” A short accompanying text uses generic names for the birds to look for and gives readers some clues. The birds pictured can be found in San Francisco, the home of the author, but because she has chosen widespread species, most readers from all over the continent will recognize most of them. Besides the chickadees and owl, she hides bluebirds, sparrows, wrens, robins, warblers, doves, and hummingbirds. Complete common names for the actual birds shown are given in an afterword, and for each she includes a short paragraph of other information about appearance and behavior as well as a suggestion for further resources. The author/illustrator used watercolor and collage for her carefully painted images, which are a good combination of reasonably realistic and satisfyingly challenging.

Fun and surprisingly successful as an invitation to look closely at the natural world. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239340-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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As a parable of gender nonconformity this is too disjointed to work. Don’t bother.


A young boy accepts his unusual shadow.

In this world, everyone has a sentient, self-directed shadow that represents their innermost self. The White, floppy-haired main character explains that his shadow “is quite different, it’s not what you think.” Most of the shadows in his family are blue, but his is pink and “loves…princesses, fairies, and things ‘not for boys.’ ” In awkward rhyming couplets the narrator anxiously awaits the first day of school, where all of his apparently mixed-gender classmates seem to have blue shadows. When he's instructed (via a rhyming note) to wear his shadow’s “favourite thing” to school, he arrives in a tutu—then runs home when everyone stares at him. His father, a burly masculine triangle of a man and also White, dons a pink hooded dress in solidarity to escort his son back to school, and all is well. The central conceit of this story leaves many questions unsatisfyingly unanswered: Many girl-presenting classmates have blue shadows, so how are shadow colors assigned at birth? How can a person’s shadow have a discrete sexual orientation? Why use rhyming couplets when they lead to tortured constructions like “I join a small group, though in I don’t blend”? (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.8-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 20.8% of actual size.)

As a parable of gender nonconformity this is too disjointed to work. Don’t bother. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-648-72875-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Larrikin House/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children.


Social-equity themes are presented to children in ABC format.

Terms related to intersectional inequality, such as “class,” “gender,” “privilege,” “oppression,” “race,” and “sex,” as well as other topics important to social justice such as “feminism,” “human being,” “immigration,” “justice,” “kindness,” “multicultural,” “transgender,” “understanding,” and “value” are named and explained. There are 26 in all, one for each letter of the alphabet. Colorful two-page spreads with kid-friendly illustrations present each term. First the term is described: “Belief is when you are confident something exists even if you can’t see it. Lots of different beliefs fill the world, and no single belief is right for everyone.” On the facing page it concludes: “B is for BELIEF / Everyone has different beliefs.” It is hard to see who the intended audience for this little board book is. Babies and toddlers are busy learning the names for their body parts, familiar objects around them, and perhaps some basic feelings like happy, hungry, and sad; slightly older preschoolers will probably be bewildered by explanations such as: “A value is an expression of how to live a belief. A value can serve as a guide for how you behave around other human beings. / V is for VALUE / Live your beliefs out loud.”

Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children. (Board book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-742-8

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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