Although it shares a title with Clinton’s 1996 work calling for a social commitment to children’s welfare, this picture book offers just 16 sentences spread over 40 pages illustrated with Frazee’s customarily humanistic detail.
The sentences don’t begin to attempt a narrative, amounting to little more than a sequence of platitudes: “Sometimes it takes a child // to make a village. // We all have a place in the village, a job to do, / and a lot to learn. // Kids don’t come with instructions. / But neither do grown-ups!” The illustrations, however, do provide a visual storyline, starting with three kids—one black, one Asian, and one white—who look up at a bare tree, then talk to their grown-ups, who talk to more people, leading to the community’s coming together to build an elaborate play structure beneath what turns out to be a cherry tree. In choosing this particular, child-friendly narrative, the illustrations miss opportunities. The lines “Every family needs help sometimes. Kindness and caring / and sharing matter” are illustrated with pictures of children sharing out snacks for the work crew rather than images of meaningful sharing across class divides, for instance. Frazee's cast shows her characteristically ebullient attention to inclusivity: a diversity of ages, races, and family constellations can be discerned, and one character uses a wheelchair. However, readers looking for ethnic or faith-based attire will find none.
The book reaches for inspiring but stalls out at bland. (Picture book. 3-7)