People will be stunned by this book even if they’re too astonished to explain why.

READ REVIEW

IN THE JERUSALEM FOREST

Readers will be happily confused by this picture book.

Almost every page of the story—based on a piece by Israeli national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik—is gently disorienting. The narrator is a young girl walking through the woods with her mother, and as they look at the reflections in the water, she says, “The forest is upside-down,” and “There in the water: the sky!” Kelner takes this as a challenge. In her paintings, the sky is often the same color as the water or the ground, and the characters’ clothing matches the nature around them. The most challenging section is when the girl says, “Ima and I see our reflections in the pond. We look the same, like two drops of rain.” (“Ima” is the Hebrew word for “Mom.”) This isn’t quite true. The mother is tall, freckled, and redheaded. The daughter is more compact, and her skin is the pale brown of coffee ice cream. But the paintings include small details that mirror each other so that the characters really do start to look alike. Busheri adds off rhymes to the text at unexpected moments (“same” and “rain,” “come” and “sun”), which is both lovely and a bit startling. The imagery, both in the words and the pictures, is so beautiful that readers may be heartbroken when a ripple in the water takes the reflections away.

People will be stunned by this book even if they’re too astonished to explain why. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3472-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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