An ode to solitude and nature, this picture book provides comforting certitude in current times of uncertainty.

I FOUND HOPE IN A CHERRY TREE

A child and a cat experience solace, joy, and wonder while exploring the natural world.

Starting inside a country house and then venturing out into a snowy landscape, a child with straight, black hair and pale skin and a playful cat observe and reflect upon the simple, ever evolving pleasures of the natural world. Eyes can behold mischievous shadows created by the sun, ears can hear the stories carried in the wind, tongues can taste soft, sweet clouds, and best of all, there’s the hopeful promise of spring in the buds on the shivering cherry-tree branches. Each of the four parts of the poetic, first-person narrative is a bite-sized reminder that even scary or dismal things, like wind that howls like wolves or icy, sharp snowflakes, contain hope and joy. Visual and textual motifs are woven throughout, building to the reassuring and gratifying conclusion featuring the child and cat amid a shower of cherry blossoms. There’s comfort in steady, sure things, like the constant presence of the sun and the cyclical nature of the seasons. Textured canvases overlaid with soft pastels and cool earth tones create a dreamy, tranquil atmosphere, mirroring the quiet wonder of the text. Compositions are grounded by expertly placed shapes and lines, moving the eye through the scene in a peaceful, steady manner. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.9-by-21.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15.4% of actual size.)

An ode to solitude and nature, this picture book provides comforting certitude in current times of uncertainty. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-220-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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