A disappointing outing for the psychology specialists.

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MINDFUL BEA AND THE WORRY TREE

A new picture book addresses anxiety with mindfulness.

Bea loves to dance, sing, and explore the outdoors. But Bea is also prone to anxious thoughts, which are brought to life in the watercolor-and-ink illustrations as long fronds of a malevolent willow tree that leave poor Bea in tangles. She’s planned a big party, but on the day of the event Bea can think only of everything that might go wrong. Her repeated attempts to control the cascade of worried thoughts are thwarted each time a guest arrives: “DING DONG!” Seeking relief, she escapes into the yard, where she is finally able to slow down and find space to breathe. When Bea discovers the party balloons are not blown up, readers might think this will confirm her fears of failure, but instead, the rhythmic breathing required to blow up the balloons further aids her calming and allows her to enjoy the party with her friends. Unfortunately, the inconsistent rhyme scheme and sometimes-confusing use of speech and thought bubbles distracts from the story and muddles the message. While the backmatter content from pediatric psychologist Ara Schmitt is informative for parents, other, better resources exist for sharing mindful breathing techniques with children as well as for providing literary mirrors to children struggling with anxiety. Bea and most of the other characters present white.

A disappointing outing for the psychology specialists. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4338-2954-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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