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A sweet story that reminds readers to always put their hearts into whatever they do.

A young Japanese girl learns an important lesson while making sushi.

Miko, who has perfectionist tendencies, decides to hand-make sushi for her grandmother’s birthday. As she forms a ball out of rice and adds the fish, Miko realizes that her sushi doesn’t look right. She asks her grandfather for help, to which he replies, “Kokoro” (defined in the glossary as heart). Together they go through the steps, with Miko copying her grandfather. But her movements don’t look or even sound the same as her grandfather’s, and her sushi still comes out lopsided. Miko leaves and finds a shop, where she buys perfect sushi made by a robot. At the birthday party, Miko’s grandmother tastes the guests’ various homemade dishes, touching her heart each time—except when she tries the robot-made sushi, and Miko realizes a dish doesn’t need to look perfect; it needs to have kokoro, and she runs to get her homemade, imperfect sushi. This delightful story imparts a much-needed message: It truly is the thought that counts. Miko’s actions and emotions, especially her frustration, will strike a chord with little ones struggling to do new things. The story deftly incorporates elements of Japanese culture, such as language. The collage and acrylic artwork is colorful and vibrant, engaging readers and giving more context and cultural references. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet story that reminds readers to always put their hearts into whatever they do. (sushi recipe, author’s and illustrator’s notes) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781646868377

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A real treasure of a book for any child who has struggled to learn a skill.

A young Black boy struggles with writing—until a special guest visits his class.

Abdul loves to tell stories about the people in his neighborhood, and his friends at school love hearing them. But whenever he tries to write down his stories in a notebook, spelling rules confuse him, and his “scribbly, scratchy, scrawly letters” never stay on the lines. Abdul decides that his stories are not for books. One day, a visitor comes to Abdul’s class; Mr. Muhammad—a Black man with a flattop haircut like Abdul’s and whose sneakers, like Abdul’s, have “not a single crease or scuff”—is a writer who urges the students to “write new stories with new superheroes.” Abdul feels motivated to give writing another shot, but again he ends up with endless erasure marks and smudges. Mr. Muhammad shows Abdul his own messy notebook, and Abdul, who is left-handed, decides to try writing without erasing. He makes a mess but searches through the clutter for sentences he loves. He rewrites and rewrites and works on his mistakes until he forms a story he likes, proudly claiming the title of writer. Bright, full-color, textured digital illustrations depict a racially diverse, joyful community. This story offers an honest portrayal of learning differences and demonstrates the importance of role models who reflect kids’ own backgrounds. It is a lovely addition to the shelf of meaningful children’s books portraying Black Muslim Americans in everyday situations. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A real treasure of a book for any child who has struggled to learn a skill. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6298-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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