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ALWAYS IN MY HEART

A worthy message that children need to hear marred by saccharinity and clunky grammar.

This heart-shaped board book offers an idealized model of unconditional parental love.

“You and me = we” ungrammatically begins and ends this sweet paean to love. A rotund penguin with pink cheeks assures a baby penguin that love is constant, whether they are together or apart, in rain or sunshine. Each page describes in rather vague terms a temporary separation of a caregiver and child—the caregiver riding a bus or train (perhaps to work) or the child spending a day with Grandpa. Occasional repetition of words or phrases keeps the meter consistent (if the grammar is occasionally not) while emphasizing the core message: “You’re right here with me—You’re here in my heart.” The seven pastel pages are cut in successively larger hearts to form a pleasing pastel rainbow and make it easy for little fingers to turn the pages. Key words and smaller vignettes are highlighted in decorative hearts on each page. A companion volume, You’re My Little Star, reiterates the same message of unqualified love using a layered star-shaped format. A doting owl tells an owlet, “There’s nothing you can’t do” and that the baby is the “warmest,” “coziest,” “comfiest,” “cutest,” “smartest,” “sweetest,” “sparkliest,” “brightest” star.

A worthy message that children need to hear marred by saccharinity and clunky grammar. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68010-557-5

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

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FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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