A boy on the autism spectrum considers his classmates as possible friends.
“Henry was looking for a friend.” The plot is that simple and that complicated. Although it’s never specified in the text, Henry’s autism can be seen in his behaviors and thoughts. He stands straight and still as the multiracial class convenes, a steady pillar amid the bustle. Henry, who presents East Asian, describes the other children in a manner that gives insight to his point of view: One student is “a tangle of colors,” while another is “a thunderstorm.” Initially dismissed because she likes the “Big Slide,” brown-skinned Katie shares a moment with Henry over the fishbowl. They play together, and readers see Henry standing straight and steady once again but this time looking up with a smile of anticipation as he “waited at the bottom for his friend.” Ink-and-watercolor illustrations interpret Henry’s point of view well, giving context to his perspective. Song’s style allows for small impressions and intentional gaps, like her rough hair textures and the outline of a fishbowl. It is in a state of becoming, like the burgeoning friendship.
Whether on the spectrum or not, friends don’t have to share everything, just enough, and this book sweetly provides.
(Picture book. 3-8)
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.
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.)