From the Sophia series

An art-positive story rich in love, determination, and delightfully big words for brains of all sizes.

Sophia’s impressive vocabulary strikes again.

In this third title in the series, 6-year-old Sophia, who has brown skin and wears her hair in three puffballs, has a conundrum: Her art falls short of her expectations, so she crumples it up in frustration after showing it to Noodle, her pet giraffe. Aided by her attentive teacher, Ms. Paradigm, who agrees with Sophia that “Art is hard,” she comes to understand some things about perspective that improve her painting she calls Love. At home, she lobbies for permission to display her art on the family’s new stainless steel CoolKitch (TM) fridge. (Readers will recall she used this skill effectively to get Noodle in One Word From Sophia, 2015.) She must convince Mother, the judge (who is also pregnant); Father, the businessman; Uncle Conrad, the politician; and Grand-mamá, the “head curator.” Ultimately it’s Noodle who helps Grand-mamá, the toughest critic, see the art and their family from a better vantage point. Readers might never have encountered the words “ossicones,” “curator,” or “censorship” before, but they will have a good idea of what each word means after reading this story, especially with the help of the robust glossary. Ismail’s whimsical watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations of this interracial family will entertain and delight while they inform. She captures Sophia’s shifting attitudes particularly well as the determined protagonist pleads her case for abstract art.

An art-positive story rich in love, determination, and delightfully big words for brains of all sizes. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7790-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Questioneers series

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out.

Teachers influence children profoundly.

From earliest childhood, Lila Greer, the youngest of five in a single-dad household, has been a worrier. Then the family moves. Entering second grade feels overwhelming: Nothing’s familiar, and she has no friends. But Ms. Kern, Lila’s new teacher, invites Lila to erase the chalkboard at recess and to articulate her fears. It helps that someone listens. Soon, classmates get into the act, and lonely Lila makes friends, emerges from her shell, and learns that “what ifs” have positive sides. Lila grows up, still fretting sometimes, and then becomes a new teacher who worries upon meeting her own students. But then she remembers the teacher who helped her overcome her fears and doubts years earlier. What was that marvelous, ineffable quality Ms. Kern possessed? Then Lila remembers: It was kindness! Harnessing that memory, Lila now welcomes her own “smiling young faces.” This is a sweet story that emphasizes good cheer, helpfulness, and the importance of feeling welcome and heard, no matter who you are: terrific messages, expressed in bouncy verses that scan well. The illustrations are colorfully lively. Readers will appreciate occasional displays of humorous and quirky typesetting creativity and will admire Lila’s poufy topknot, which resembles a huge ball of yarn. Lila is light-skinned, Ms. Kern is tan-skinned, and other characters are diverse.

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781419769047

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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