Free to be Big Bob, Little Bob, and Blossom.

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BIG BOB, LITTLE BOB

Friendship transcends gender norms.

When Big Bob moves next door, Little Bob is leery of befriending him. The main problem isn't their size difference, it’s that they enjoy different things. Without malice apparent in the cheery, digital cartoon depictions of the smiling, light-skinned boys, Big Bob tells Little Bob, “Boys do not play with dolls….They play with trucks.” Little Bob isn’t persuaded and continues playing with his dolls, but Big Bob’s antics with his trucks and a ball destroy Little Bob’s playtime tableaux. Big Bob apologizes and explains, “You were supposed to catch the ball,” but Little Bob responds that he’s not good at playing catch. They can’t find common ground in attempts at shared activities, but this lack of connection never seems rooted in animosity, even when Big Bob remarks on Little Bob’s wearing a dress. Then Blossom, also light-skinned, moves in nearby, and she teases Little Bob about playing with dolls. This time, he’s hurt, and Big Bob comes to his defense: “Boys can do whatever they want!” Chagrined, she leaves, but Little Bob calls her back. Blossom returns, sharing that she likes playing with trucks, which Big Bob affirms since “Girls can do whatever they want, too.” The children then happily engage in play with their various toys, offering an ending that seems righteous if a bit forced.

Free to be Big Bob, Little Bob, and Blossom. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4436-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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