A good idea drowns in unnecessary excess.

READ REVIEW

MOM GOES TO WAR

Great intentions yield few rewards in this well-meaning, plodding explanation of breast cancer for kids.

A king and a queen call their sons in for a consultation. The queen reports that there is a rebellion underway, but it’s not in the kingdom. The rebellion is of breast-cancer cells, and the battlefield her body. Using martial terminology, the queen is able to answer her sons’ questions and calm their fears, walking them through the entire process of this “war.” Unlike similar books for a younger crowd, this title eschews avoiding frightening topics and uses an unusual approach to make the discussion about fighting cancer both straightforward and appealing. Sadly, troubles abound. Martín loads the book down with excess text, overloading readers from the start. The conceit—royal family, war terminology of many eras—lends itself to mixed metaphors. Most worrisome, at no point do the words “radiation” or “chemotherapy” appear. Instead faux treatments with names like “Scalpozap” and “Extermamide” muddy the issue. Silly, simplistic art adds little to the narrative, sometimes making things worse by displaying frighteningly huge syringes and pills.

A good idea drowns in unnecessary excess. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-84-15503-20-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A warm and necessary message of empowerment for black children, helping them see that raising their hands is a celebration...

HANDS UP!

This picture book offers a different take on a black body raising “hands up.”

Vibrant, colorfully textured illustrations show different displays of black children raising hands, such as playing peekaboo, getting dressed, and other mundane activities. The book follows one little girl as she puts her hands up to do chores, to reach for books on a high shelf at the library, and even to assume the fifth position in ballet class. She holds up her bun as her grandmother does her hair, throws her arms up “in praise and worship,” and hoists a trophy after a victorious basketball game. Riding her bike with her hands up results in a fall, but there is a caring adult there to pick her back up. McDaniel sends a positive and affirming message that normalizes for black children the gesture of raising their hands, redeeming it from the very negative, haunting images of black people raising their hands while being confronted by police. The book closes with a bold illustration of children of all colors raising their hands and holding signs such as “Water = Life,” “Spread Love,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Evans employs a pastel palette that amplifies McDaniel’s sunny message. Outlines are done in purple, blue, brown—there are no literally black marks in this book.

A warm and necessary message of empowerment for black children, helping them see that raising their hands is a celebration of their humanity. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55231-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Despite its visual flaws, this book will help a small, deserving readership.

HAPPY RIGHT NOW

A young child learns to reach for happiness.

The young narrator, a black child with cornrows and afro puffs, thinks of many acquisitions and happenings that would bring happiness. The glum kid will be happy after getting “a puppy, / a unicorn, / an ice-cream sundae.” Or when “everyone adores me.” But each time, the narrator adds, “Or, I can be happy right now.” As the difficulties standing in the way of happiness grow harder to bear—sickness, sadness, and sorrows—the narrator more actively counteracts them. The kid can “snuggle down for a sleepy snooze” or “breathe right now / … / Feel my body relax… // …Know that happy will find me again soon.” The final spread shows the child balancing on a branch, reaching toward a cat, knowing that “I’ll be happy when / I’m hopeful, / cheerful, / helpful, / thankful. / Reaching for happy / until I can grab it.” While most children (and adults) can relate to negative thought patterns, this book may be most helpful for those who experience mild forms of anxiety and depression, the text incorporating cognitive, physiological, and action-based tools to improve mood and combat negativity. The illustrations convey only two emotions—sad and happy—and an embodied “worry monkey” (whose fur is unfortunately reminiscent of the narrator’s afro puffs) scampers about on two spreads.

Despite its visual flaws, this book will help a small, deserving readership. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68364-352-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sounds True

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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