This beautiful story grasps diversity, exploring resilience, love, friendship, and the meaning of home.

SALMA THE SYRIAN CHEF

When Salma and her mom move from the refugee camp to Canada, they seem to leave joy behind with Papa.

Back in the camp, her mom giggled with her friends all the time, but now, in Vancouver, she hardly laughs at all. They both miss Papa and hope he’ll join them soon. Salma and her mom live in the Welcome Center with other newcomers. When she shares her quest to make Mama laugh with one of the helpers, Nancy suggests that Salma draw her good memories for inspiration. As Salma illustrates her home in Damascus and her parents eating a dish of foul shami, she has an idea! “I think Mama misses Syrian food….I want to make her foul shami.” However, she doesn’t know the recipe, let alone the English words for any of the needed vegetables. Setting many vignettes in an eight-pointed star-shaped frame, Bron fills the pages with careful detail and glimpses of different cultures and places, including Vancouver. At the Welcome Center, Salma and readers meet children from Egypt, India, and Venezuela; a translator from Jordan; a gay couple from Lebanon; and others from Canada, Somalia, and Iran. With creativity and help from friends, Salma moves ahead with her plan, but so many things go wrong. The story ends with a lovely surprise and, of course, a big laugh from Mama.

This beautiful story grasps diversity, exploring resilience, love, friendship, and the meaning of home. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-375-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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