A sensitive rendering of the conflict at the core of double consciousness.

AMERICA, MY LOVE, AMERICA, MY HEART

An unnamed narrator—or perhaps a collective narrator—with diverse cultural heritage seeks to know whether America loves them.

Front and back endpapers picture a United States flag with the Pledge of Allegiance printed in childlike handwriting. Within, gray-toned illustrations with accents of red, blue, and white depict people of color of all ages in outdoor and indoor settings: cities, fields and beaches, churches and schools. The text reads like a poem, narrated by a first-person voice who is, at first, unsure of their inclusion in the bold, brave United States. “Do you love me?” the voice asks its country. A series of questions addressed to “America,” some literal and some figurative, reveal an obsession with and a lack of confidence in the narrator’s relationship with their country, until at last the voice concludes that, despite all these questions, “America, I am you. / America, you are me.” The text incorporates occasional phrases in Louisiana Creole and in Spanish (both without translation), a choice that is explained in the author’s note as a reflection of her heritage. Through simple, poetic language and stark, symbolic imagery, Peoples-Riley delivers another powerful representation of the complex relationship between people of color and the country whose past and present call its love for some of its people into question. This book answers a deep fear about wholeness and belonging as it invites young readers to grow into its message.

A sensitive rendering of the conflict at the core of double consciousness. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299329-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture...

HAPPY DREAMER

Displaying his distinctive voice and images, Reynolds celebrates the joys and challenges of being a creative spirit.

“I am a HAPPY DREAMER,” cheers a thin, spiky-haired white boy as he flies skyward, streaming yellow swirls of sparkles. This little “dreamer maximus” piles on the energy with colors and noise and the joy-filled exuberance he has for life. “Wish you could HEAR inside my head / TRUMPETY, ZIGZAG JAZZ!” With clear honesty, he shares that the world tells him to be quiet, to focus and pay attention. Like a roller-coaster ride, Reynolds’ text and illustrations capture the energetic side of creativity and the gloom of cleaning up the messes that come with it while providing a wide vocabulary to describe emotional brilliance and resilience. The protagonist makes no apologies for expressing his feelings and embracing his distinct view of the world. This makes him happy. The book finishes with a question to readers: “What kind of dreamer are you?” Hinging outward, the double-page spread opens to four panels, each with a dozen examples of multiracial children being happy and being dreamers, showing inspiring possibilities for exploration. The best way, of course, is to “just BE YOU.”

A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86501-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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