A useful, compassionate debut that offers astute guidance for fitting in.

Zander's Friendship Journey

In this thoughtful debut children’s book by a veteran educator, a first-grader with difficulty relating to others embarks on a “friendship journey” and socially blossoms with help from caring adults.

Six-year-old Zander, happily home-schooled by his grandmother, had never been to school with other children, but he’s looking forward to attending his neighborhood elementary school. Only days after joining the Terrific Tadpoles class, grades 1 and 2, Zander comes home upset, convinced that his teachers, Mrs. Perez and Miss Rivers, are unhappy with him. “Their mouths look frowny and sad” when they watch him sometimes, Zander tells Miss Joy, a family friend. Even Zander’s grandmother seems unhappy lately, he thinks. (Adults will understand that Zander lives with his grandparents and that Zander’s teachers have talked to his “Nana” about their concerns.) Miss Joy gently elicits the fact that Zander doesn’t smile or say hello to teachers at school, and she helps him practice friendly greetings and making eye contact. Zander is embarking on a “friendship journey,” she says: “Are you ready to do some greeting, smiling, and eyeball-locking next week at school?” Zander gives it a try, and although his first smile is “crooked and wobbly,” he finds that making his teachers happy makes him happy, too, so much so that he’s brave enough to use his new social skill to gain his new friend, Emmy Lee. He stumbles a bit due to his anxiety over anything new—“For Zander, the word ‘new’ could mean a fun adventure or a scary experience”—as well as his trying to grasp the concepts of sharing and casual, getting-to-know-you conversation. But Miss Joy reminds Zander that a friendship journey can be tricky, and he perseveres, soon discovering that sharing, taking turns and talking with friends can be fun. Hardin’s appealing, carefully crafted book, written for “children, family members, and school-based professionals,” will resonate with young readers facing similar challenges and with the adults helping them. The book’s uncredited illustrations, however, while serviceable, are flawed by the lifelessness of the children’s oversized, downturned eyes.

A useful, compassionate debut that offers astute guidance for fitting in.

Pub Date: April 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1483932149

Page Count: 38

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.


All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.


From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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