Addresses a vital topic in a humorous and nonthreatening way and gives readers a way to respond politely but firmly to even...

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I WON'T GO WITH STRANGERS

This German import teaches readers not to go with strangers.

The opening page consists of the list of people who are allowed to pick Lu up from school. If they’re not on the list or Mama and Papa haven’t told her about it beforehand, she won’t go with them. And Geisler tests the tyke mightily. Lu is stalwart throughout: “I don’t know you, so I won’t go with you!”; “Mama said I should wait.” The imaginative girl considers how one really knows a person. Ms. Smith lives in Lu’s neighborhood, but Lu doesn’t know her first name. Ralph is helping Lu’s dad build a shed, but “Does he wash his own stinky socks?” Then comes a man in a dark car. After it’s started to rain. He claims to know Lu’s mother. He’s the only person who causes Lu to drop her smile, and readers will pick up on that. Lu’s repeated refusals to person after person make for an effective modeling of behavior. Geisler makes her point that you can’t judge people by their appearances when Lu finally leaves with a man in a studded leather jacket and combat boots—her brother Phil. A fill-in-the-blank page at the end allows children and their caregivers to make their own lists. Geisler’s imaginings help lighten the mood of the serious topic; her characters all seem to be white.

Addresses a vital topic in a humorous and nonthreatening way and gives readers a way to respond politely but firmly to even well-meaning adults. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3534-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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