Hopeful and affirming, but children familiar with bullying may find the conclusion too simple.

JACOB'S NEW DRESS

In a warmly illustrated picture book meant to comfort both boys who are gender-nonconforming and their parents, young Jacob asks his mom for a dress to wear to school.

At first, Jacob’s interest in wearing dresses is limited to playing dress-up. When his classmate Christopher tells him he ought to wear boys’ clothes instead, Jacob’s friend Emily answers with age-appropriate defenses (“Christopher, stop telling us what to do”). Jacob’s mom hesitates when Jacob expresses interest in wearing a dress as school clothes, but eventually, both she and Jacob’s dad agree to it. The segments with Jacob’s mom and dad seem aimed at parents as much as at children. Jacob’s mom’s look of concern when he first asks about the dress is poignant, and his dad’s words of acceptance (“Well, it’s not what I would wear, but you look great”) could easily serve as a model for fathers in similar positions. What rings less true is the story’s rosy end. Faced with Christopher’s bullying comments and other kids’ laughter, Jacob is so buoyed by his new dress that he stands up to Christopher himself, then sprints triumphantly across the playground, “his dress spreading out like wings.”

Hopeful and affirming, but children familiar with bullying may find the conclusion too simple. (afterword, authors’ note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6373-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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