A solid addition to the early-reader shelf.



From the Mo Jackson series

Mo has played football, baseball, basketball, and soccer—now he’s running track.

Mo, Jenna, and Dov will be a team in a relay race after school, so they practice passing their baton to one another after lunch, Mo pocketing his jelly doughnut to eat later. They use Jenna’s straw for the baton, and try as he might, Mo cannot maintain his grip on it. Later on, Mo finds the straw a distraction while in class. After school the track meet commences, and Mo stands close enough to the long jump that his friend Fran crashes into him, smashing the doughnut in his pocket. Mo happily eats the messy sweet treat, and then it’s time for the relay race, which Mo is anchoring. Their opponents drop the baton just as Jenna hands it to Mo, and thanks to the jelly all over his hand, he holds on all the way to the finish line! In Ricks’ friendly illustrations, Mo and Jenna both have brown skin and Afro-textured hair while Dov and Fran present White; their classmates are diverse. This fourth series entry is, like its predecessors, a great book to help emerging readers use context clues to infer words’ meanings. It will also help readers recognize the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words—during class, the children practice AT words such as CAT and MAT, not to mention BATon. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-12-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A solid addition to the early-reader shelf. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984836-82-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.


A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials.


Worrier Cora is plagued by the Whatifs until she learns a new way to tackle her anxieties.

Cora has a problem reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Whatif.” As she goes about her days, the Whatifs clamor for her attention. These embodied worries are presented as needling little monsters that range from silly and annoying to frightening. They become especially distracting in the lead-up to her big piano recital. Despite all her preparation, the Whatifs latch on and won’t let go. Just before her big performance, though, an older girl notices Cora’s distress. Stella encourages turning around the Whatif worries, a tactic drawn straight out of the cognitive behavioral therapy playbook. By reframing and pondering alternative and optimistic Whatifs, Cora is able to tackle her anxiety and succeed. Both Cora and Stella have dark hair and eyes and peachy complexions; Cora’s classmates and community appear fairly diverse. Cora and her Whatifs have a charming appeal beyond their focus on tackling anxious thoughts, making an enjoyable read-aloud for wide audiences. In her author’s note, Kilgore describes her own anxiety disorder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51% of actual size.)

A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1029-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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