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Engages both the eye and ear as it instills a sense of wonder.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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Oakes’ (The Black Coats, 2019, etc.) Christian picture book illustrates God’s diurnal and nocturnal creations.

Little Niko awakes in the middle of the night with the realization that he left his toy train in the woods near his house. He hurriedly dons his coat and boots and runs out into the night to retrieve his favorite toy. Along the way, he notes the differences in his surroundings from when he was playing in the woods the previous morning. Instead of singing goldfinches (“bay-bee”) and drilling woodpeckers (“thump-thump-thump”), there’s a barn owl calling (“hoot-hoot”). Where bees were buzzing, fireflies dance. As Niko passes through the night, he knows that even in the dark, God watches over him. He reaches the end of the woods and finds his prized train on a fence post and, rejoicing, returns home to go back to bed. This charming, simple tale is punctuated with vibrant paint-and-collage illustrations by debut illustrator Chan. Though the narrative mentions God and the author unveils in the afterword that she was inspired by several specific parables from the Bible, the Christian themes aren’t heavy-handed. Oakes ably employs color words and onomatopoeia to engage young audiences.

Engages both the eye and ear as it instills a sense of wonder.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7586-6208-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Concordia Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Provocative yet cautious.

A community transformed by swastikas, and the response.

Chokecherry, Colorado, is a small town with a lot going on. A group of paleontologists from Massachusetts have set up a research station after fossilized dinosaur poop is discovered in the area. Some residents still whisper about the Night of a Thousand Flames in 1978, when Ku Klux Klan members flocked to the area and burned crosses. And the local media is sent into an uproar when Michael Amorosa, a Dominican boy and one of the few students of color, discovers a swastika painted on a wall at Chokecherry Middle School. Told in alternating perspectives, the story follows the students as they embark on a lengthy tolerance-building curriculum, come up with an art project to commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, deal with an out-of-town YouTuber who wants to go viral with his commentary on the story, and learn more about themselves and their family histories. The only Jewish girl, Dana Levinson, helps Lincoln Rowley study for his bar mitzvah after he learns that his maternal grandmother, rescued and raised by nuns as a Christian, was the sole member of her family to survive the Holocaust. While the story is engaging, with many twists and turns, the different voices blend together, and emotional depth takes a back seat to educational goals. There’s a lot to ponder here about mistakes, intention, the difference between ignorance and hatred, and religious identity.

Provocative yet cautious. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-62911-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A tender, honest, and beautifully written story about family, faith, and friendship.

Louisa Emerson copes with the sadness and stress of her alcoholic dad, remarried mom, new stepdad, and a move to the suburbs.

Fifth grader Lou loves her small apartment in San Francisco; her mom; her 15-year-old sister, Casey; her BFF, Beth; sad books; and, despite the pain and uncertainty he causes, her usually drunk dad. Lou’s life is being uprooted, however, because Mom is marrying oversolicitous Steve, a man from church who proposed after only three dates. Since Steve lives in his large childhood home in Pacifica—and Lou’s family is barely getting by financially in the city—they are moving in with Steve, and only Mom and Steve seem happy about that. On her 11th birthday, Lou anonymously receives a guitar that she believes is from her dad. After the Emerson girls move, Lou befriends Marcus and Shannon, a charming couple with three young kids who live on Steve’s block. They quickly become the sisters’ trusted adults, and Marcus gives Lou guitar lessons. In her middle-grade debut, noted YA author Zarr writes exactly the sort of kid Lou herself favors: one that thoughtfully tackles tough issues like substance abuse, parental abandonment, the difficulties of change, and blended families. The story also features church and Christian themes in a refreshingly positive and affirming way. Lou’s family is White; supporting characters include Chinese American Beth and Filipino American Marcus.

A tender, honest, and beautifully written story about family, faith, and friendship. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304492-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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