A coming-out story radiating warmth and joy.

SAM!

A 9-year-old trans boy comes out to his family members, who show their love and support for him.

Sam, a boy “filled with dreams and spirit and laughter,” isn’t sure how he feels about his older sister, Maggie. She bosses him around a lot, but sometimes they have fun together riding their bikes. No one but Sam knows that he is a boy called Sam, including his sister. Everyone treats him like a girl, which makes him feel sad. When one of the kids at school upsets Sam, he confides in Maggie about who he is. With her help, he tells his family and finds happiness. Palely hued illustrations with the look of watercolor depict Sam and his family as people of color, and the characters who appear in the background at Sam’s school reflect a racially and culturally diverse world. Gabriel consistently places Sam’s feelings at the center and emphasizes that his boyhood isn’t determined by how he dresses or plays. While Gabriel acknowledges that Sam’s parents, teachers, and classmates take time to feel comfortable with Sam’s identity, the story concentrates on Sam’s emotional journey through sadness and anger to, ultimately, happiness that he can be himself rather than on the learning process of those around him. Even though Sam and his sister don’t always get along, her support for her brother is unflinching and heartening, and their relationship becomes closer because of it.

A coming-out story radiating warmth and joy. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9996584-3-7

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penny Candy

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A humorous, meandering approach to a life lesson about leading every day with benevolence.

A NEW DAY

To the consternation of the other six days of the week, Sunday quits in protest, tired of being unappreciated for her consistent delivery of a weekly “beautiful free day.”

Sunday’s abrupt decision prompts the others to look for her replacement with an advertisement inviting auditions before the remaining six days. The competition quickly grows increasingly fierce as ideas are broached for DogDay, Big-BurpDay, PieDay, Band-AidDay, and, ridiculously, FirepoleSlidingIntoPoolsOfCottonCandyDay. Amid all this boisterous and frenzied rivalry, a little girl approaches the misunderstood Sunday with a small plant to say thank you and to suggest “simply a nice day. A day when people can show more kindness to each other.” The child’s humble gratitude is enough for Sunday to return to her important weekly position and to prompt all the days to value kindness as the key to each day’s possibilities. Bright art captures the mania, with cotton-candy hues representing each of the anthropomorphic days. Though undeniably comical as it unfolds in busy cartoon illustrations and speech balloons, the drawn-out, nonsensical, and unexpected course the narrative takes may be a stretch for youngsters who cannot always distinguish among days. Kindness as the ingredient for achieving a harmonious week is nevertheless a valuable message, however circuitously expressed. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

A humorous, meandering approach to a life lesson about leading every day with benevolence. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55424-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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