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No need to scratch beneath the surface of this text to find the glint of gold. It’s apparent right from the start.

A tender, probing appreciation of what lies just below the surface.

Tucked beneath a quilt in the center of the bed, Finn is having a horrible day. “Grandpa wanted to talk about it. Finn did not.” The child is quite certain that Grandpa won’t understand, but the old man convinces Finn to take a walk with him (still under the quilt) and is soon pointing out instances where what’s on the surface conceals hidden complexities—trees with deep roots, for instance, and water teeming with fish. “Beneath appearances are experiences. Beneath actions are explanations. Beneath what’s different is what’s the same,” he says. As Finn slowly emerges from the quilt, Grandpa ties it all together: “Beneath someone who looks like they won’t understand…is someone who knows exactly how you feel.” As in her The Rabbit Listened (2018), Doerrfeld has crafted another brief yet incisive picture book. Here, her cozy yet vibrant art advocates for understanding and acceptance alongside the artist’s unique brand of straightforward simplicity. Grandpa’s tour begins big (with nature) and seems to narrow in focus (with an exploration of emotions), but Doerrfeld caps the book off brilliantly with Finn pointing out the cosmic stars above. “Don’t worry…I’ll remember to think of what’s beneath”—a breathtaking clincher. Grandpa and Finn are both tan-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

No need to scratch beneath the surface of this text to find the glint of gold. It’s apparent right from the start. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-316-31226-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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