While not as strong as Sue Ganz-Schmitt and Shane Prigmore’s Planet Kindergarten (2014), it’s a great choice for space fans...

CAPTAIN FREDDY COUNTS DOWN TO SCHOOL

A boy anxious about his first day of school settles his nerves with some pretend play.

Freddy is obviously mad about space—his room is blue and decorated with stars and constellations, and a planet mobile hangs above the outer-space quilt on his bed. But he may not be quite ready for school yet: “School is big. It’s far, far away. And it’s full of strangers.” The boy alternately imagines working in space and getting ready for school—his backpack is his jetpack, his shirt is his uniform, his new shoes are moon boots, and that laser he straps on? It looks suspiciously like a banana. But a sudden problem with the ship leaves Freddy floating in space alone, until he lands on a faraway planet and meets an extraterrestrial who tries to take his laser. But then Mom opens the door to find Freddy and his baby sister on the floor playing. Freddy’s finally ready, though: “School’s a big place….But I’ve been to space, and it is gigantic.” Reflecting the space theme, Chou’s digital illustrations employ lots of deep blue, pops of bright color, and angular lines. Freddy, his mom, and his sister have medium-brown skin and dark, straight hair.

While not as strong as Sue Ganz-Schmitt and Shane Prigmore’s Planet Kindergarten (2014), it’s a great choice for space fans and a good way to introduce kids to distraction as a coping technique. (bibliography, further reading) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5039-5095-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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