Illustrations elevate this tale of hope and empowerment.

THE STARKEEPER

A young girl finds a way to make her star shine.

A black-haired, brown-skinned child simply referred to as “the girl” walks in a rainy village accompanied by a gray tabby cat. She finds herself enveloped in a “world” that has “been dark for a long time. Rainy. Lonely. Dark.” One day she makes an “enormous wish. She wished the lonely dark away.” The next day she finds a star by the village’s fountain. “It was beautiful and warm and perfect.” Soon after attempting to hold it in her coat the girl realizes that it refuses to be hidden, but even in the open it is quickly losing its shine. The girl makes several futile attempts to revive it, but her numerous calls for help to the community are left unanswered. It is when she finds other children in need and decides to help and share the star that its light begins to shine brighter. A few idiosyncratic word choices (“shrinkier,” “glowy”) occasionally disrupt the flow of the narrative. However, Pray’s textured line drawings are alluringly filled with pastel colors. Initially the pages are saturated in dark blues and grays, but as the girl’s acts of kindness expand to others in her diverse community, the colors transform to a brighter tone. Pray lets readers know of their inherent power to bring about positive change, no matter their size.

Illustrations elevate this tale of hope and empowerment. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9270-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Aspirational—but not quite ascending to the inspirational.

MY VOICE IS A TRUMPET

Explores different ways one’s voice can be used.

The unidentified narrator begins by chronicling different types of voices: “loud and proud,” “soft and sweet,” “patient and wise,” and more. The Deaf community is included in both text and art, and sign language is alluded to: “There’s a voice that is silent / but STILL CAN BE HEARD / with hands that move / to speak EVERY word.” The vibrant, colorful art presents an array of children of different races and skin tones. Unfortunately, this well-meaning book does not cohere. The art in some spreads does not appear to augment or even connect to the text. For example, the lines “I’LL SAY NO TO HATE / by using this voice / and ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE— / a magical choice” are illustrated with a spread of four children: one playing the trumpet, another singing, one with a drum major’s hat and baton, and the final child skateboarding. Readers may be confused by how these images apply to the text since they have no direct relation to saying no to hate or choosing love. Spreads with children holding protest signs feel disconnected to the present moment with no Black Lives Matter or BLM–related signs depicted. Some text excludes nonbinary children, asserting “we’re SISTERS / and BROTHERS.”

Aspirational—but not quite ascending to the inspirational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35218-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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