Empathetic and eminently useful.



A child-friendly introduction to COVID-19.

The co-authors calmly and gently walk children through coronavirus basics, from how it’s spread to how it’s changed their lives and the lives of those around them. They hew mostly to colloquial terms rather than medical jargon, referring to respiratory virus particles as “[germs that] float through the air in tiny drops of water,” for instance, but when necessary, important vocabulary is introduced and defined within the narrative. Getting better is emphasized, as is the fact that most cases of COVID-19 are relatively mild, but the co-authors do not dodge the truth: “Sometimes even [a ventilator] might not be enough to help them get better, and if that happens, then sadly they might die.” Readers are directly enlisted to prevent this with exhortations to wash hands frequently, even after disposing of a tissue, “because the coronavirus lives in your snot.” To this sober, frank narrative Scheffler adds cartoon vignettes, striking a delicate balance between his trademark goofiness and the gravity of the circumstances. While the term “social distancing” is never introduced, the concept is, along with explanations of why readers may not visit relatives in person (“Hi, Granny,” one brown-skinned child says, waving to a face on the computer screen) or go to school (two white children evince diametrically opposed reactions). Scheffler’s cast is thoughtfully diverse, including several characters with visible disabilities and one woman who covers her hair. The book’s British origins can be seen in the absence of masks among the general population when in public, so readers in regions where they have been adopted may need further explanation about local rules or norms. The book is available as a free PDF download from the publisher. It is laid out in double-page spreads, which display with forbiddingly small type on a tablet, but on a desktop computer legibility is decent at 60% of original size. Links to resources, mostly U.S.–based, appear in the backmatter.

Empathetic and eminently useful. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1921-0

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2020

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A poem about the pandemic with vivid illustrations and a strong environmental message.


During a period of quarantine, people discover new ways to live—and new lessons about how to care for the planet—in this debut picture book.

In this work’s poem, O’Meara describes lockdowns experienced by many across the world during the first days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning with the title phrase, the author discusses quiet activities of solitude and togetherness as well as more boisterous ways of interacting. These times of being apart give people a new perspective, and when they reunite, “they grieved their losses, / and made new choices” to restore the planet. The spare verse allows the illustrations by Di Cristofaro and Pereda to take center stage. The colorful, slightly abstract cartoons depict a rainbow of people and pets, many of them living in apartments but some residing in larger, greener spaces. Images of nature healing show the author’s vision of hope for the future. While this was written in March and originally published as an online poem, the lack of an explicit mention of the reason behind the lockdowns (and the omission of the experiences of essential workers) could offer readers an opportunity to imagine a planetary healing beyond the pandemic that inspired the piece. The accessible prose and beautiful images make this a natural selection for young readers, but older ones may appreciate the work’s deeper meaning.

A poem about the pandemic with vivid illustrations and a strong environmental message.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73476-178-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tra Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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The many enchanting elements of dance and story in The Sleeping Beauty ballet come alive for young children.


Read! Practice! Perform!

Three girls (Amirah, Violet, and Sahani) and two boys (Joonwon and Alejandro) take ballet class. They clearly demonstrate warm-up moves, basic feet and arm positions executed at the barre, and center-floor movements including jumps. Their facial expressions vary from happy to fretful. When they have performed their “reverence,” or bows, they are ready to move on to a performance of The Sleeping Beauty, a popular story ballet danced to a beautiful score by Tchaikovsky. Violet’s mom, a former dancer, enters to tell the children the story, and they act out the various roles, from the elegant Lilac Fairy to the evil Carabosse. Each role involves steps that they previously learned and very expressive facial and body emoting. Bouder is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and writes with enthusiasm and knowledge. The uncluttered cartoon illustrations are lively and colorfully detailed, depicting a multiracial cast (as hinted at by the children’s names). That Violet and her ex-professional mom are white somewhat undermines the egalitarian message. While it may prove challenging for readers to actually try the steps on their own, especially the jumps, they should enjoy practicing. When readers play the score (not included but readily available) in the background, correct ballet movement or simply expressive individual movements can result in a very enjoyable staging.

The many enchanting elements of dance and story in The Sleeping Beauty ballet come alive for young children. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-5128-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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