THIS IS A GIFT FOR YOU

The best things in life aren’t things….

Author/illustrator of the perennial bestseller The Wonderful Things You Will Be (2015), Martin has established herself as a picture-book maker with a talent for writing verses befitting sincere, heartfelt greeting cards. This title reaffirms that writerly gift in the best of ways as it delivers rhyming lines that describe simple pleasures and intangible treasures that define relationships and enrich a person’s life. Sometimes the gouache illustrations depict people in comfortable companionship; other spreads show a solitary person engaged in an activity alone. Text reading, “So I’ll give you this world / Like a lucky blue stone…. // The gift of alone… / And not-being-alone” is representative of the book as a whole. It never offers a narrative arc but instead presents images of racially diverse children and adults going about their days. Illustrating the aforementioned quatrain are a picture of Black-presenting adults transferring the stone from or to (it’s open to interpretation) a small Black child and, on the next double-page spread, first a different Black child painting in solitude and then a ring of racially diverse children playing. This reference to “a lucky blue stone” is echoed in closing spreads with reference to the Earth itself, lending the book a sense of cohesion and underscoring its gentle message of unity and gratitude for the simple things in life, such as the very ground on which we stand, together. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Another gift of a book. (Picture book. All ages)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1416-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America.

WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

A Black man teaches two Black children about their roots.

“Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?” These questions open the book as a man leads an unnamed boy and girl, presumably his children, into “Remembrance Park,” where they gaze up at Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams, and Martin Luther King Jr., who appear as cloudy apparitions in the sky. This imagery gives the misleading impression that Abrams, very much alive, is in heaven with the other figures, who are all deceased. Later on in the story, another potentially delusive illustration shows the main characters visiting a Mount Rushmore–like monument showcasing Kamala Harris alongside departed Black icons. After highlighting inspirational individuals who are not descended from people enslaved in the United States, the illustrations paradoxically depict enslaved Black Americans working in cotton fields. The portrayal of slavery is benevolent, and the images of civil rights marches and sit-ins likewise lack the necessary emotional depth. The text’s statement that “you are from the country where time moves with ease and where kindness is cherished” erases centuries of African American struggle in the face of racist violence and systemic exclusion. The book tries to instill pride in African Americans, who continue to struggle with a lack of shared identity or common experience; ultimately, it stumbles in its messaging and attempts to turn an extremely complicated, sometimes controversial topic into a warm and fuzzy picture book. All characters are Black.

A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308285-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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