A deeply felt examination of grief.


A girl struggles to understand her grief in this British import and picture-book debut for artist Perkin.

After a visit to her mother in the hospital comes a life-changing call the next morning: “She’s gone.” There’s a funeral and many condolences. The girl finds herself unable to concentrate and feels detached from the world, her father telling her that it is grief she is experiencing. Perkin writes matter-of-factly about struggling with the loss of a parent. There’s no condescension to child readers; she respects their ability to understand, telling the story with a refreshing candor from the girl’s point of view: “Everyone would say, ‘I’m so sorry.’ But it wasn’t their fault,” the girl muses. Finding one of her mother’s sweaters, which retains her mother’s scent, the girl wears it often. Her sensitive father helps her comprehend the enormity of her feelings with the use of an apt and poignant simile, explaining that her grief is like her mother’s sweater: It stays the same, but she will “eventually grow into it.” There is a fitting plaintiveness to Perkin’s stylized figures—she draws eyes simply with everyone appearing as if they are looking down—but smiles grow as times passes and the girl and her father come to understand their loss. The two are white; the family’s grieving friends include people of color and multiracial families.

A deeply felt examination of grief. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5544-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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A tender ode to a family’s ever changing (and never-ending) love.


In lyrical rhyme, a parent promises to love their child across the years of their special bond.

An adult with warm brown skin and long brown hair and a red dress floats above a sleeping town, cradling a baby. Meanwhile, an adult with a somewhat deeper-brown complexion and straw fedora shelters a different child from a downpour. A unified narration offers a series of tender, metaphor-driven vignettes spanning the little ones’ lifetimes. The scenes follow a gentle formula, depicting a stage in the kids’ lives and the support the adults vow to provide (“you’ll be a knight and I’ll be a horse. / We’ll race along a rainbow’s course / to castles in the sky”) then seamlessly shifting into a new iteration of their connection (“until it’s time to fly. / Then…”). As the story progresses, each child’s autonomy grows; in turn, each adult lovingly acknowledges the change their relationships will take. Combining lyrical words with vibrant paintings and occasionally rotating spreads, Young and López weave a rich tapestry that honors the process of children’s self-determination over time. Most notable about this warmhearted tale is how it can be applied to any special adult in a child’s life, including caregivers, extended family, and chosen family. Because each parent-child duo is illustrated as a distinct unit, this book is also a beautiful representation of single parents. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16% of actual size.)

A tender ode to a family’s ever changing (and never-ending) love. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-45328-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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