A gentle story about connection that will connect with readers of all ages.

I AM A BIRD

True understanding comes from a willingness to look deeper.

In an idyllic seaside community rendered in soft colored pencil and bright paint, a young child flies to school on the back of Daddy’s bike. Both present Asian. Arms stretched wide, the child expresses joy and exclaims, “I am a bird.” Singing an exuberant bird song—“CA-CAW! CA-CAW!”—the smiling and waving narrator spreads happiness along the way. Along their route, passersby smile and wave in return, and even the birds sing back. One day, the child spots an older, White woman in a blue coat and carrying a big bag; she is walking past a mural painted with toothy animals and does not wave and smile. The predatory animals depicted in the mural openly gape at the woman throughout the story, manifesting the child’s growing dislike as they see her again, day after day. Soon, the child’s bird song stops whenever the woman is spotted. One day they are running late, and the child does not see the woman until catching a glance of her in a park. She is surrounded by birds, whispering her own bird song, and the child has an epiphany. In the final double-page spread, the child and woman reflect each other with raised heads and closed eyes as they find they are the same: “We are birds.” The soft, textured illustrations expertly pair with the understated text and its beautifully simple, implicit message to look closer before jumping to conclusions. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.1-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 25.2% of actual size.)

A gentle story about connection that will connect with readers of all ages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0891-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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