Neal explores the well-trodden notion that everyone has feelings.
“Sometimes, you just need to cry, and that’s OK,” assures the text after a brief survey of feelings experienced by a white child with short, tousled black hair. This reassurance is paired with an illustration of the child’s blue tears turning into blue birds and winging their way across the gray sky. With the turn of the page, it then declares, “When you cry, you are not alone.” The child is now standing amid blue raindrops, smiling. Children will be forgiven for wondering, how is the child not alone? Are they to understand that the raindrops are the tears/birds? Neal is ambitious in his visual metaphors, but that doesn’t make them easy to understand. The illustrations, in a limited, retro palette that includes shades of black, peach, and blue, range from faux childlike cartoons to the sophisticated and fantastic. The plotless text has a tone-deaf “we are the world” vibe that’s a simplistic disconnect with the illustrations. Even as it acknowledges that “everyone has feelings, and that’s OK,” it mystifies with murky assertions such as, “when you sing… / everyone listens.” Unfortunately, it looks as though “everyone” is watching blue shooting stars.
There is no shortage of outstanding picture books that address children’s feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and joy. This is not one of them. (Picture book. 5-8)