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Another gift of a book.

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 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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