Comically charming, this one-of-a-kind story celebrates the unique bond that connects father, son, and facial hair. A...

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BEARD BOY

In this illustrated ode to the beard, an impatient son seeks to invent and claim a beard of his own to connect with the cool brush of his father.

“Billy, the best baker in town, had a short boxed beard. All of the barbers were bodaciously bewhiskered….And both of Bobby’s dads rocked boisterous beards.” Full of alliteration and vivid description, the text introduces readers to Ben as he becomes captivated with the assortment and diversity of the stylish beards of his town, including a “bit bedraggled” beard of an old lady but topped by the most significant stubble of his dad. Ben burrows into his investigation by consulting bearded men in the park: “Is it itchy?” “Does it get too warm in the winter?” “Or hot in the summer?” Ben’s fascination meets invention as he determines to acquire one, whether it's through bubble bath, peanut butter, or permanent marker. A kid cannot just wait till he’s 25 or 26, as his father suggests, to become more like his old man. Remarkably, Dad finds a solution just in time to calm his son’s beard fever, trimming his scruff to mirror his son’s total lack of fuzz. Weinberg’s digitally colored watercolor-and-pencil illustrations bristle with energy, depicting Ben’s family as white and locating them in a diverse urban neighborhood (and planting cameo appearances by such bearded lights as Darwin, Malcolm X, Ai Weiwei, and a billy goat gruff, among others).

Comically charming, this one-of-a-kind story celebrates the unique bond that connects father, son, and facial hair. A refreshing cut for young readers. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17336-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.

SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ

From the Questioneers series

Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact.

After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia’s nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that “being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you’re just in Grade Two.” Sofia’s courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty’s previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia’s leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts’ signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae.

Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3704-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text.

IF DOMINICAN WERE A COLOR

This nostalgic picture book celebrates the author’s Dominican heritage.

This poetic picture book sets out to dispel stereotypes and racism around skin color in the Dominican Republic, but it doesn’t quite succeed. The combination of Recio’s extended poem and McCarthy’s richly hued landscapes captures the inherent musicality and vibrancy of the Dominican countryside, coasts, and people. However, the text is sometimes hit or miss, especially when forcing a rhyme: “The shade of cinnamon in your cocoa, / drums beating so fast, they drive you loco,” feels forced. The Afro-Dominican author attempts to extol the different races found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, elevating the country’s Black roots: “It’d be the curls and kinks / that blend my hair, / the color of charcoal / mixed with the sun’s glare.” In her striving to reclaim colorist language, Recio doesn’t quite succeed, and her use of terms such as “yellow tint” and “the Haitian black / on my Dominican back” feels at odds with the powerful message she’s trying to convey while inadvertently recalling the racial caste system put in place by Spanish colonialists. McCarthy’s stunning art interprets the text with texture and light, her illustrations portraying the diversity and beauty of the Dominican people. The lush foliage, the impossibly blue skies, and the otherworldly pinks and oranges spring off the page with joy and verve. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.1% of actual size.)

Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6179-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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