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Powerfully demonstrates the wonders imagination can dream up…and how quickly reality can crash back in.

Siblings + rocks + running water + imagination = adventure.

In this tale translated from German, Lily and May are building a dam near their house. Their younger brother, Noah, adds his special green rock to the dam but quickly loses interest and decides to fish instead. As the girls continue to work, readers will become aware that Noah is suddenly fishing not from the dam, but from a fishing boat that’s come into view, and in the distance, there are ship’s sails. A king arrives, and while he refuses to schlep rocks, his men help. Suddenly, the king calls for help against a pirate attack. May and Lily echo his call, telling the pirates to join in the building, and they daren’t refuse. Even the king pitches in. “It would have been a really good day if Noah hadn’t wanted his stone back….” As the three soaked sibs drink Mom-supplied hot chocolate, they dream of tomorrow’s imaginary adventures. Di Giorgio’s perspective remains the same as the children build, allowing readers to immediately recognize the changes that happen between the page turns: the growing dam, the arrival of a boat and then a ship, the unfolding imaginary scene. The rocks are wonderfully textured and patterned. May and her mother have light skin and dark hair, Lily has light brown skin and Afro-textured hair, and Noah has light skin and blond hair. The king, his men, and the pirates are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Powerfully demonstrates the wonders imagination can dream up…and how quickly reality can crash back in. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780735845015

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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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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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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