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NOT QUITE NARWHAL

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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I'M PROUD OF YOU

Affectionate and affirming.

Today co-anchor Melvin pens an ode to the father-son bond.

A dad lists all the things he admires about his son, including the boy’s willingness to face his fears (such as diving into the swimming pool) and his ability to “make people laugh, / bring joy to folks.” The child shows “kindness and grace” when apologizing for a mistake, and he perseveres in the face of failure (“They can’t all be wins”). The boy has an inquisitive mind (“You ask questions and investigate. / Who knows what you’ll find?”), and he’s a caring big brother who loves building sand castles with his younger sibling. Ultimately, the father salutes his son for the person he is “through good times and bad, / no matter what.” Melvin conveys the joy of watching a child grow into a strong, capable adult while maintaining a sense of childlike wonder. Rather than focusing on traditionally masculine activities or attitudes, he celebrates qualities such as emotional intelligence and a nurturing spirit. While the text on occasion dips into sentimentality, overall Melvin delivers a sound message. Cloud’s digital illustrations depict the family and their diverse community with expressive faces, capturing their myriad emotions and lending the book an exuberant tone. The father presents Black, his partner appears white, and the tan-skinned children are biracial; all are unnamed.

Affectionate and affirming. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063206137

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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