A sensitive topic swum with mindful strokes.

A tale of two youngsters told with alternating human and fish points of view.

Balcombe’s insightful juxtaposition of two youthful experiences wades through an emotional journey of learning and compassion. At each turn, Balcombe’s approach compares the naïve assumptions of a young boy named Jake and a juvenile fish named Ava, finding opportunities to recognize similarities across diverse perspectives as their storylines converge and paths prepare to cross. Jake’s outing with his grandfather begins as his first fishing trip and a meaningful time for learning with an elder. That morning finds the young fish Ava also setting off, to catch insects with her uncle, and learning the techniques and hot spots just as Jake learns from Grandpa. When Jake worries about how the worm may feel, readers get a hint as to what may be on the horizon for Ava. The grandfather and child in the story both appear White, with no noted ethnic or racial identities. Evans’ richly hued watercolors evoke fluid movement and a vibrant natural landscape filled with wildlife. The expressive features bring these lives into focus, building to a sequence with Ava first vividly centered and then pulled into tension with Jake; a picture of a sorrowful Jake gazing at an equally distressed Ava, hanging from the hook across the gutter, says it all. Illustrations and story harmonize well, highlighting vulnerability and the importance of compassion, and an informative endnote quells concern over anthropomorphic storytelling.

A sensitive topic swum with mindful strokes. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-940719-46-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Gryphon Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021


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


Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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