An earnest and conscientious effort to add diversity to new readers’ choices.

READ REVIEW

MUSIC TIME

From the Confetti Kids series

Set in the diverse urban neighborhood introduced by Paula Yoo and Ng-Benitez in Lily’s New Home and Want to Play (both 2016), this newest entry focuses on Henry, a would-be rock-star drummer.

Henry’s mother needs quiet to work, so Henry takes a single drum to the front stoop. An intentionally diverse cast of characters stop playing jump rope to freeze dance. Henry is white. Lily is dark-skinned with curly hair. Mei’s, Padma’s, and Pablo’s names suggest ethnically diverse backgrounds; all have light-brown skin and dark hair, and Pablo wears glasses. Repeating the same few words guarantees success for new readers. Uncluttered layout and a sans-serif typeface also help, while digitally enhanced watercolor illustrations provide context clues. Each of the three brief chapters can stand on its own, though they also form a cohesive if simple story arc when read in one sitting. Henry seems unrealistically willing to adjust his behavior so as to not disturb his mother; his mother is all too happy to break into dance when her work is complete. In the simultaneously publishing Block Party, Padma is embarrassed when her mother brings Indian lentil soup to the neighborhood festivities. But her friends seem to like it, so Padma decides she can be proud of the soup and of her heritage. Each book closes with an “extra”: instructions to make a homemade drum in Music Time, and a recipe for lentil curry soup in Block Party.

An earnest and conscientious effort to add diversity to new readers’ choices. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62014-343-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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