It’s sentimental to be sure, but who can’t use a gentle nudge to remember manners? (Picture book. 4-8)

THE THANK YOU LETTER

Young Grace gives and then receives letters of love and gratitude.

After an exuberant birthday party filled with diverse kids in elaborate costumes, Grace sits down to write thank-you letters for her gifts, depicted in Cabrera’s trademark, childlike style. There’s always a bit of dissonance when an adult approximates children’s art, but these are reasonable, not-too-cloying facsimiles. Grace’s messages are just right, especially when acknowledging that while a gift might not have been perfect (she receives a toy dog rather than a living pup; gloves are too large), she’s thankful nonetheless. Upon finishing, she carries on, sending gratitude to teachers, pets, and members of her diverse community. (Grace herself has light skin and straight, dark hair.) Cabrera’s books tend to feel satisfyingly cohesive, and this is no exception. Grace returns home to dozens of love letters sent back to her pinned inside her brand-new play tent, and the whole thing cozily wraps with Grace holding a metafictive sign thanking the readers of this book. At times, the book tries too hard to be positive—where’s the whining about completing what many children regard as a chore?—and Grace’s ever present grin and dotted pink cheeks make her appear excessively dolllike, even cutesy. But the animated art style, with deeply textured acrylic colors in invitingly warm colors and cheery scrapbook paper collage, buoys the effort.

It’s sentimental to be sure, but who can’t use a gentle nudge to remember manners? (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4250-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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