A beautiful ode to friendship that brings Browning’s rhythms to kids’ level.

HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

Three diverse children adapt Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 from love poem to celebration of friendship.

A pale girl with black hair in pigtails, a light-brown–skinned boy with brown hair and glasses, and a dark-brown–skinned girl with afro puffs atop her head are clearly the best of friends, often holding hands or otherwise touching in the mixed-media–and-digital illustrations. Adams has kept what concepts children can understand of Browning’s language, replacing the rest with references to the seasons and kid-friendly language. Instead of “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight,” Adams offers, “I love thee deep / and wide and high. // I love thee in soft sunlight / and rain-drizzled night.” The former spread shows the trio in a submarine and on a ship at sea. Instead of Browning’s passionate declamations, readers hear, “I love thee by stars / and firelight. // By spring’s first snowdrops // and fall’s red trees // and winter’s frost-etched breath.” The illustrations mix the real and the fantastical: One of the last spreads (“…and at end of day’s goodnight kiss”) portrays the three children suspended from kites, two of them being welcomed by a parent’s arms, the third still drifting toward home. Neal’s friendly, matte artwork is softly colored in earth tones. The final page tells a little about Browning and gives the original text of Sonnet 43.

A beautiful ode to friendship that brings Browning’s rhythms to kids’ level. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-239444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

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.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

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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