On par with other books on the subject, this celebration of black hair, culture, and community is one to share.

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MY HAIR

A black child thinks of all the hairstyles she knows as she tries to decide how to wear her hair for her birthday in this British import.

The narrator’s parents take her to the hairdresser, where the child looks at magazines and then starts to think about all the hairstyles she has seen on her family and friends. Her mom wears “dazzling dreadlocks,” her sister experiments with “Bantu knots, a high top fade, braids.” She runs through the looks on boys and men too: her brothers’ designed cornrows, her father’s clean-shaved head and full beard, her uncle’s waves, preserved with a do-rag. An aunt’s short shave, Grandpa’s turbans, a friend’s twist-out…everyone’s hair is beautiful, but the child still doesn’t know what to choose for herself. Finally, Mommy whispers to her, and she knows what style to wear. The rhyming text is upbeat and fun to read despite a few dips in the rhythm. The fanciful, stylized illustrations make large, dramatic shapes of the hairstyles on people (almost all of whom present black) and their pets, with lines and squiggles emphasizing texture and volume. Each character has a distinct personality, and all seem to rejoice in their hair and the process of caring for it. The narrator, her loved ones, and their culture are eminently likable, making this a joyful read.

On par with other books on the subject, this celebration of black hair, culture, and community is one to share. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34686-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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