A playful, poignant, and wonderfully reassuring book for children as they encounter emotional hills and valleys.

WHERE HAPPINESS BEGINS

Sometimes Happiness skips right in step with your stride; other times it’s hard to locate or hold onto.

Readers find Happiness within this winning book’s covers, where it takes shape as a cheery neon pink, amorphous figure (with stumpy appendages and a funny little twisty topknot). Bright cartoon illustrations show a pale child in T-shirt and slacks engaging Happiness in myriad (literal) ways. Happiness hula-hoops, reads, marches, and eats ice cream with the youngster; it also gets lost in a dark forest, runs away, and nods off to sleep. The narrator, a steady and soothing voice, sums up what’s so very hard to understand about Happiness. “You can try to understand it, collect it, or protect it. / You can try to catch it.…But most of the time Happiness appears to have a will of its own.” Vivid, straightforward vignettes are done in a springtime palette on spacious cloud-white backdrops with nary a black line in sight. They succinctly illustrate just how exhilarating, elusive, and ephemeral Happiness can be. A powerful spread of the child riding out mammoth waves in a small boat aptly describes the bravery and resolve required to submit to overwhelming feelings and see them through. A culminating image of the sleeping child curled in bed, cuddling Happiness close with lemony morning light filling the room, provides great comfort.

A playful, poignant, and wonderfully reassuring book for children as they encounter emotional hills and valleys. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12770-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way.

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SULWE

With the help of a legend about Day and Night, a dark-skinned black child learns that she is beautiful inside and out.

Sulwe is “the color of midnight,” the darkest in her multihued family, and is teased in school. She tries everything to lighten her skin: an eraser, makeup, eating light foods, prayer. Her mother tells her she is beautiful and that her name, Sulwe, or “star,” refers to an inner brightness, but she can’t see it in herself. Then a shooting star comes to her window, sent by the night, and brings Sulwe out to tell her about Night and Day, two sisters who loved each other but were treated differently. When Night left after people called her names like “scary,” “bad,” and “ugly,” the people realized that they needed her. The stars added that “some light can only be seen in the dark.” After learning how Night and Day are both needed, Sulwe knows that she is “dark and beautiful, bright and strong.” Harrison’s glossy illustrations faithfully render the features of black people, allowing the beauty of different skin tones to shine, with deep purple tones in the darkness, reinforcing the story’s message. In an author’s note, Nyong’o shares her own past struggles with her complexion.

A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2536-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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