YES, LET'S

Ready the backpacks—this is sure to inspire many a family.

Tag along on a family’s hiking trip as they enjoy (mostly) the great outdoors and (almost always) each other.

Longstreth and Wicks have created an Everyfamily that most readers will be able to identify with, even if they have never been on a family hike. The language helps: Every sentence, save the final one, starts with "Let's," bringing readers into the adventure. Early one morning, four children tiptoe in to wake their parents (and dog) for a day of hiking through the woods to the river. As in reality, not everything goes perfectly; what matters are the interactions, and there are plenty as the family members enjoy swimming, playing games, building boats and dams, exploring, having lunch and pursuing their own interests. While the rhymes don’t always work (“cards” with “far”), Wicks’ illustrations are standouts. She captures the family’s every thought and feeling, from the teenage girl’s defiance over exchanging her pink flats for hiking boots to the mother’s horror at her youngest son’s hands at lunchtime. (The oddly applied noses may distract some, though.) The kids are nicely individuated: The oldest boy has his ever-present yo-yo, the youngest one is always losing or dropping something. But best of all are the small details. Not only are there endpaper checklists of animals, hiking gear and groceries to find, but very observant readers will notice a whole other subplot going on in the illustrations.

Ready the backpacks—this is sure to inspire many a family. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-933718-87-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tanglewood Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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