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TOMATOES IN MY LUNCHBOX

A poetic book about the power of a smile and what it means to find home.

A young immigrant doesn’t recognize their own name when students and teachers say it aloud; it’s like “it doesn’t fit in their mouths.”

The narrator has come to a new country, and their heart aches for home (neither their name nor their nation of origin is mentioned in the text). They left “the place where [their] name fit” for a world full of Emmas and Olivias and Sophies. Believing life would be easier as an Emma, the narrator tries to be like a classmate, but that doesn’t quite fit either. The tomatoes in their lunchbox don’t help. They bite into them like an apple, spilling seeds all over their shirt. The narrator then remembers advice from their grandmother: “A smile can lighten a heavy load.” A timid smile leads to tentative friendship with one classmate, then another, as slowly the protagonist starts to realize they do belong here. This is a beautifully told and illustrated story that expresses, with sensitivity and inspired use of figurative language, a child’s attempt to fit with the dominant culture—a common experience that will resonate with many readers and inspire empathy in others. Rich, vivid illustrations make superb use of color and convey a sense of movement. The main character is brown-skinned; the classmates are diverse in terms of skin tone. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A poetic book about the power of a smile and what it means to find home. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-76312-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

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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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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