Belongs among the gifts given at every baby shower; three squeezes should be part of every caregiver’s toolkit.


A father’s love, epitomized by the titular gesture, lasts a lifetime.

The first two spreads set up a family tradition shared between father and son, both depicted with pale skin and straight, brown hair: “When you could neither talk nor stand, / life’s hourglass still filled with sand, // I gently held your tiny hand /and gave it three soft squeezes.” Subsequent spreads gradually age the child as he faces common life experiences, three squeezes always communicating his father’s comforting presence: a nightmare, a broken leg, a missed catch, a quarrel between the pair, the death of a pet, graduation. The boy becomes a father himself. On a sunset-lit forest path, he pushes his father in a wheelchair. “The day may come, you understand, / when I can neither talk nor stand, / and if it does, please take my hand / and give it three soft squeezes.” The final page shows the three generations together, the son squeezing the old man’s hand while the text spells out that three squeezes mean “I love you.” Sheban’s illustrations are the perfect complement, playing up the relationship and using color to enhance emotions. While inevitably begging comparison with Love You Forever, this comes out much the better with its portrayal of the normal progression of aging, though it requires just as many tissues.

Belongs among the gifts given at every baby shower; three squeezes should be part of every caregiver’s toolkit. (Picture book. 3-8, adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31345-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.


From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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