Heroism with a wink.

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HOW TO BE A HERO

What does it take to become a hero?

From a tilted airborne angle, the opening double-page spread shows brick houses and tiled roofs in faded reds and warm grays. Where’s Gideon, the “nice boy” in this “once upon a time”? He sits in his yard, tiny and barely noticeable, wearing a red cape that barely registers. Gideon’s life is unsatisfying, and although he soon appears larger—especially when dismembering and stabbing teddy bears—he’s unsure how to become a hero. Must he be strong, brave, and clever? Must he kiss someone? Imagining scenes from familiar fairy tales like “Cinderella,” Gideon concludes that he need only “be in the right place at the right time” and “pay attention.” So he does—except he totally doesn’t. Heroism possibilities appear left and right; Gideon’s oblivious. Then a briefly wordless supermarket scene unfolds with heroism-related twists and hilarity. Someone’s definitely a hero, but is it Gideon? Heide’s third-person-very-limited narration follows Gideon’s unmindful perspective while the illustrations show far more. Groenink uses pencil and Photoshop to create warm, low-saturation scenes with an old-fashioned lilt, using color judiciously in fantasy scenes, such as varying purples during a dragon-killing, or on Gideon’s nose, which is sometimes peach-skinned like the rest of his face but sometimes dark red, plum, or purple. Classical references (Propp & Bettelheim Quality Butchers) add a layered spark.

Heroism with a wink. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2710-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous.

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THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN

Newbery honoree Barnes (Crown, illustrated by Gordon C. James, 2017) shows a black boy what to expect on his first day as “king” of kindergarten.

A young boy greets the reader with a sweet smile. “The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. / It sits and shines behind your head—like a crown.” The text continues in second person while the boy gets ready for his first day—brushing “Ye Royal Chiclets,” dressing himself, eating breakfast with his mother and father before riding “a big yellow carriage” to “a grand fortress.” The kind teacher and the other children at his table are as eager to meet him as he is to meet them. Important topics are covered in class (“shapes, the alphabet, and the never-ending mystery of numbers”), but playing at recess and sharing with new friends at lunch are highlights too, followed by rest time and music. The playful illustrations use texture and shadow to great effect, with vibrant colors and dynamic shapes and lines sustaining readers’ interest on every page. Text and visuals work together beautifully to generate excitement and confidence in children getting ready to enter kindergarten. The little king’s smiling brown face is refreshing and heartwarming. The other children and parents are a mix of races; the teacher and staff are mostly brown.

Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4074-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration.

I LOVE DADDY EVERY DAY

Children point out the things they love about their fathers.

“Daddy is always kind. He gives us support and shelter when things go wrong.” A child with a skinned knee (and downed ice cream cone) gets a bandage and loving pat from Daddy (no shelter is visible, but the child’s concerned sibling sweetly extends their own cone). Daddy’s a storyteller, a magician, supportive, loyal, silly, patient, and he knows everything. A die-cut hole pierces most pages, positioned so that the increasingly smaller holes to come can be seen through it; what it represents in each scene varies, and it does so with also-variable success. The bland, nonrhyming, inconsistent text does little to attract or keep attention, though the die cuts might (until they fall victim to curious fingers). The text also confusingly mixes first-person singular and plural, sometimes on the same page: “Daddy is like a gardener. He lovingly cares for us and watches us grow. I’m his pride and joy!” Even as the text mixes number the illustrations mix metaphors. This particular gardener daddy is pictured shampooing a child during bathtime. Más’ cartoon illustrations are sweet if murkily interpretive, affection clearly conveyed. Troublingly, though, each father and his child(ren) seem to share the same racial presentation and hair color (sometimes even hairstyle!), shutting out many different family constellations. Más does, however, portray several disabilities: children and adults wearing glasses, a child with a cochlear implant, and another using a wheelchair.

Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12305-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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