This pleasantly mild hero’s journey is fabulous on the eye, but the narrative speaks more to nostalgic adults than children.

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THIS STORY IS FOR YOU

Two children quest while pondering the nature of friendship.

Pizzoli literally frames his story by placing a pair of children onstage, drawing and constructing props together. These pages are steeped in retro aesthetic, all heavily bordered by decorated columns and curtains in persimmon and gold. Likewise the children, a white boy and young girl of color, look nicely vintage too, with large, rounded heads reminiscent of classic characters such as Crockett Johnson’s Harold. After finding magical, Day-Glo orange stars, they exit the constraining stage, at which point their journey turns imaginary, and the illustrations deftly transition to expansive full-bleed spreads. Well-placed orange highlights, such as a luminous boat, guide the children through various adventures, and though these expeditions are undertaken separately, the friends are reassured that when the stars (both metaphorical and of the Day-Glo variety) lead them back together “after such a long, long time,” there will be “a big, long hug.” This narrative that muses about individuality, accepting others, and remaining close to friends is soothing and poetic, with words and phrases used repetitiously throughout. But the formality also feels incongruent with the playful visuals and approaches overt sentimentality: “I’ll turn toward the light, and wave in the darkness to say that I know you.”

This pleasantly mild hero’s journey is fabulous on the eye, but the narrative speaks more to nostalgic adults than children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5030-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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