A frank and optimistic picture book about learning to live in a new language.

MY WORDS FLEW AWAY LIKE BIRDS

When an unnamed protagonist leaves her home country for an English-speaking one, the words she’s always relied on fly away, leaving her silent and a little bit lonely.

Practicing English in her original home left her unprepared for both how quickly people speak and how much slang they use. From the teacher’s lecture to the voice on the intercom, everything feels impossible to understand. Words, however, are not the only source of her confusion. When she gets lost at school, the teacher calls the protagonist the “new girl,” even though she is who she’s always been—it’s everything else that’s new. The girl misses her friends, wishing she could tell them about all the new things she’s seen, like snow, and dogs wearing boots. Eventually, she is able to make a new friend—and when she does, her words, slowly, come back. This warmly illustrated picture book adeptly captures the experience of moving to a new country and learning a new language. The narrator’s struggle and her slow but steady adjustment to her new home perfectly balance optimism and realism. The book’s watercolor-and-ink drawings evoke a world that feels simultaneously diffuse and sharply defined, thereby serving as a wonderful parallel for the narrator’s experience. All characters have paper-white skin and black hair; the narrator wears her hair in two puffy pigtails, and her new friend wears hers in a pageboy.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A frank and optimistic picture book about learning to live in a new language. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0318-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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