A comforting, accessible introduction to a not often discussed subject.

A woman and her young child try to make the best of things when they enter a homeless shelter.

The young narrator is understandably wary. Mama, attempting to allay her child’s anxiety and demonstrating a coping strategy, pretends it’s a royal abode. Inside, an administrator guides them to their bedroom; Mama offers up more playful scenarios to find fun amid new surroundings. Later, the two join other mothers and children of various ages and with different skin and hair colors in the communal dining room; one smiling girl wears the hijab and another, glasses. (The protagonist and Mama present white.) By shower time, the narrator feels acclimated enough to be the one to invite Mama to join an imaginative game, though this scene feels rushed. This gently told tale aims to reassure. It evokes a sense of immediacy, though the decision not to name the narrator may distance readers. There’s no explanation for why there are no adult men here, nor does anyone mention the absence of fathers. The flat, bright pencil-and-acrylic naïve-style illustrations succeed, with charming make-believe sequences and wide-eyed characters exuding hope. Except for a tearful woman shown on one page, readers could infer that residents feel welcomed and safe. Youngsters believing shelters are cheerless and impersonal may be comforted by the clean, colorful, and cozy facility. The backmatter offers lucid information about homelessness and shelters.

A comforting, accessible introduction to a not often discussed subject. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78285-824-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019


From the Food Group series

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers.

A winning wheel of cheddar with braggadocio to match narrates a tale of comeuppance and redemption.

From humble beginnings among kitchen curds living “quiet lives of pasteurization,” the Big Cheese longs to be the best and builds success and renown based on proven skills and dependable results: “I stuck to the things I was good at.” When newcomer Wedge moves to the village of Curds-on-Whey, the Cheese’s star status wobbles and falls. Turns out that quiet, modest Wedge is also multitalented. At the annual Cheese-cathlon, Wedge bests six-time winner Cheese in every event, from the footrace and chess to hat making and bread buttering. A disappointed Cheese throws a full-blown tantrum before arriving at a moment of truth: Self-calming, conscious breathing permits deep relief that losing—even badly—does not result in disaster. A debrief with Wedge “that wasn’t all about me” leads to further realizations: Losing builds empathy for others; obsession with winning obscures “the joy of participating.” The chastened cheddar learns to reserve bragging for lifting up friends, because anyone can be the Big Cheese. More didactic and less pun-rich than previous entries in the Food Group series, this outing nevertheless couples a cheerful refrain with pithy life lessons that hit home. Oswald’s detailed, comical illustrations continue to provide laughs, including a spot with Cheese onstage doing a “CHED” talk.

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063329508

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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