A well-written, beautifully illustrated strategy for lifting up others in the face of bullying.

THE BRAVEST HEARTS

EMPOWERING OUR FRIENDS

A group of classmates supports a friend dealing with a bully in this companion children’s book to Sbarboro and Leach’s previous title, The Truest Heart (2018).

In this illustrated tale, a teacher named Miss Work hands out papers with drawings of hearts and announces a class assignment: “I want you to write a strength in this heart that you’ve seen in someone else.” The students—a diverse group representing multiple ethnicities—consider the topic. The assignment helps Jericka and Ze, two brown-skinned classmates, think about how much they appreciate their friendship since the former stopped being mean. Although the assignment resonates, it doesn’t give the students a strategy for responding when Kaisley bullies Jericka. Surprisingly, a math lesson provides the answer they need: It doesn’t take much to tip a scale. When Kaisley next bullies Jericka, some classmates interrupt with warm words about the latter’s strengths until their kindness surrounds her like a shield. That compassion allows Jericka to see that Kaisley may be a kindred spirit who just needs some encouraging words herself. Sbarboro’s deft depictions of Miss Work’s lessons and the students’ responses to them provide concrete, constructive ideas for creating positive friendships. The way the two classroom subjects work together to bring the lesson home shows the author’s keen insight into school dynamics. But because so many students share the spotlight, young readers may have trouble identifying the main character, particularly if they haven’t read the first book. Leach’s cartoon images, particularly her depiction of Kaisley, are incredibly effective. At the beginning, Kaisley is outlined like a child but filled with gray. It’s only when Jericka begins to see her as a person and offers her words of kindness that Kaisley’s features are defined. The sympathetic words, portrayed as swirls of color, perfectly capture the emotion of what it feels like to receive praise.

A well-written, beautifully illustrated strategy for lifting up others in the face of bullying.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9992420-4-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Montgomery Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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