A valuable lesson in empathy, internalized and paid forward.

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A LETTER TO MY TEACHER

The titular letter reveals how a second-grade teacher effected positive changes in the life of a behaviorally challenged child.

“I hope you remember me.…I wore a bright yellow raincoat and a dark, stormy frown—because for me, school meant sitting still and listening, two things I wasn’t much good at.” Throughout the book, the nameless student—a small, pale-skinned girl with long, dark hair—exhibits behaviors that exasperate most adults and many children, too. She shouts out exuberant comments without waiting her turn; she attempts to derail read-aloud time with comical interruptions; she wanders from her class into potential danger on two field trips. The writer reminisces about how the teacher managed to avoid humiliating the girl and instead found ways to use the girl’s strengths, leading the child to the better academic and social skills that generally accompany improved self-esteem. From the cover art through the end pages, the artwork is fabulous. Skilled line drawings capture every emotion, while aesthetically appealing watercolor washes accentuate lead characters. Students are multiethnic, and the teacher has black, crinkly hair and light-brown skin. One humorous double-page spread keeps the teacher from inadvisable, total sainthood. Ironically, the number of sentences on each page and the gentle, subtle humor make this book most likely to appeal to adults and to children of the less-than-wiggly persuasion, but its empathetic message won’t be wasted on anyone.

A valuable lesson in empathy, internalized and paid forward. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-375-86845-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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