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A triumphant declaration of love and identity.

A Black transgender boy shares his identity and competes in a karate tournament with the encouragement of his family in this picture-book biography.

Penelope knows who he is and what he likes even if his family is too busy to notice him. He stomps through the house, cuts in line, and pounds his fists so they will hear, see, and feel his anger that everyone thinks he’s a girl. When his mom stops to listen, he tells her about his gender and helps her understand that he doesn’t just feel like a boy, he is one. With his family’s support behind him and the strength of his own determination to never give up, Penelope comes out at school and faces a new challenge: competing in a karate tournament. First-person narration centers Penelope’s feelings and perspective in every stage of his story. Warmth and pride in identity radiate from the pages, brightened by the expressive, lively illustrations. The adults in Penelope’s life model care by encouraging him to speak for himself and listening to him when he does. One thing he speaks up about is that he likes his name: Penelope. Perseverance also stands out as a significant theme within the narrative, with emphasis placed on Penelope’s diligent practice and refusal to quit leading up to his victory. This representation of a Black family and transgender child (author Patterson is Penelope’s mother) shines with joy and affirmation. (Since the creation of this book, the author's son has changed his name to Penel.) (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50.4% of actual size)

A triumphant declaration of love and identity. (Picture book/biography. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12363-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A useful primer for socioemotional growth.

Queer Eye star Karamo Brown and his son Jason “Rachel” Brown affirm that all feelings—even negative ones—are OK.

A round-faced boy with brown skin, big brown eyes, and a bright smile walks outside, talking with his dad about feelings. With the son’s speech printed in blue and Dad’s in black, the boy announces that he’s happy and shows it by jumping and spinning while Dad dances. The book’s palette, which often reflects the boy’s emotional state, shifts drastically when a thunderstorm blows in as the sky swirls with patterns in deep blue and purple, and a thick yellow lightning bolt blasts through—a dramatic scene that represents the boy’s perception of the turbulent weather as he sits on the ground crying, hugging his knees. Dad assures him that it’s all right to feel and express fear and helps him calm these negative emotions by encouraging him to stretch and breathe deeply. While the book’s lesson is conveyed in a slightly heavy-handed manner, it’s a good message, and readers will appreciate seeing a story that centers a Black father and son dispelling the stereotype that men and boys—especially those of color—don’t or shouldn’t express emotions. The backmatter includes an emotion wheel with the boy showing a range of facial expressions, accompanied by activities and questions. The acronym “FEEL OKAY” offers opportunities to practice discussing emotions. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A useful primer for socioemotional growth. (authors’ note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63893-010-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Zando

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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