Children will feel better, too, knowing they have a helpful, honest, and empathetic picture book ready for the next time...


Many books for young readers tackle terrible tantrums, but few address sadness that surfaces perhaps for no reason at all; this gives that muted malaise a shape, an identity, and love.

A child tentatively opens the door and finds Sadness, a towering, amorphous, pale teal figure, waiting on the other side. It has arm and leg stumps but no neck or waist. Text set in a type that emulates handwriting tells children what they already know: “Sometimes Sadness arrives unexpectedly.” The playful interplay between the literal and the figurative makes engaging a tough topic pleasurable. In casting melancholy not as an enemy but as a sometime companion, this powerful picture book inspires empathy and action. The hand-drawn illustrations’ extremely limited, three-color palette (a washed-out blue for Sadness’ ghostly, blobby body, subdued circles of pink on the child’s cheeks, and chocolate brown for the lines that etch their world) similarly channels depression in its constriction of color. The ungendered, light-skinned child trudges alongside Sadness with slumped shoulders as they enact the sound, practical coping tactics introduced by the narrative voice. “Try not to be afraid of Sadness. Give it a name.…Find something that you both enjoy, like drawing.” Front endpapers show depressed people ignoring their sadnesses, while back endpapers show these same characters interacting with them and feeling better.

Children will feel better, too, knowing they have a helpful, honest, and empathetic picture book ready for the next time Sadness shows up for a visit. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-70718-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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A tender ode to a family’s ever changing (and never-ending) love.


In lyrical rhyme, a parent promises to love their child across the years of their special bond.

An adult with warm brown skin and long brown hair and a red dress floats above a sleeping town, cradling a baby. Meanwhile, an adult with a somewhat deeper-brown complexion and straw fedora shelters a different child from a downpour. A unified narration offers a series of tender, metaphor-driven vignettes spanning the little ones’ lifetimes. The scenes follow a gentle formula, depicting a stage in the kids’ lives and the support the adults vow to provide (“you’ll be a knight and I’ll be a horse. / We’ll race along a rainbow’s course / to castles in the sky”) then seamlessly shifting into a new iteration of their connection (“until it’s time to fly. / Then…”). As the story progresses, each child’s autonomy grows; in turn, each adult lovingly acknowledges the change their relationships will take. Combining lyrical words with vibrant paintings and occasionally rotating spreads, Young and López weave a rich tapestry that honors the process of children’s self-determination over time. Most notable about this warmhearted tale is how it can be applied to any special adult in a child’s life, including caregivers, extended family, and chosen family. Because each parent-child duo is illustrated as a distinct unit, this book is also a beautiful representation of single parents. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16% of actual size.)

A tender ode to a family’s ever changing (and never-ending) love. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-45328-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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