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TENNYSON’S BIG SECRET

An imagination sparker for the very young.

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In Benjamin’s picture book, a boy reveals a secret talent in a guessing game.

Tennyson is a fair-skinned boy with brown eyes, brown hair, “and a button nose. Cute, isn’t he?”Tennyson has a magical power that the narrator encourages readers to guess. First, the narrator suggests Tennyson can pull an elephant from a magician’s hat. That’s not the right answer—but can Tennyson paint beautifully, ride his hobby horse faster than racehorses, or drum louder than a rock star? The narrator suggests that Tennyson could be a soccer wiz, build a skyscraper from blocks, or bounce on a ball to the moon. But none of these is quite right…until the narrator reveals the big secret on the final page. Benjamin uses accessible vocabulary words to encourage emergent readers to follow along. Trimarco’s humorous mixed-media illustrations, each featuring a cartoon Tennyson and a blue-gray cat against a painted background, explain Briticisms in the text (such as saying footballinstead of soccer). In each image, the cat reacts to each question, sometimes quite humorously; Tennyson’s activities are also comical, such as when he plays a drum set with bare feet, using his toes to hold a mallet. Although some readers might argue that Tennyson could not do some of the “impossible” things described, they’ll find the ending squeezes them just right.

An imagination sparker for the very young.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781735853550

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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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

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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