An endearing story conveying a satisfying sense of a job well done.

NIGHT JOB

A little boy accompanies his single-parent father to his evening job as the custodian at a large middle school in this serene, evocative story.

The unnamed boy narrates the story in present tense as the pair ride together on the dad’s motorcycle over a bridge and past a bay to the empty school. At first the boy shoots baskets as his dad mops the floor of the gym, but later the child works alongside his father as they listen to a baseball game on the radio. They eat sandwiches in a courtyard together, and then the boy reads and naps on a couch in the library while his father continues cleaning. By daybreak they are back home, falling asleep snuggled up in a cozy recliner, both dreaming of riding the motorcycle together over the water of the bay. This little boy is only 5 or 6, but he’s a real help to his dad in packing up their lunch, assisting with his duties, and cleaning out their lunchbox when they return home. Hesse’s poetic, calm text is matter-of-fact in conveying the love between parent and child and the bonding occurring through their shared work. Karas’ mixed-media illustrations, employing a soft focus and a muted, nighttime palette, help to relay this bond as well as the excitement of riding on the back of a motorcycle at night. Father and son both present white, and both wear helmets.

An endearing story conveying a satisfying sense of a job well done. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6238-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY

At school, everyone is excited about the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration except for Stella. She is not sure what she will do since she has two dads and no mom.

Stella is easy to spot on the page with her curly red hair but also because she looks so worried. She is not sure what she is going to do for the party. When her classmates ask her what is the matter and she tells them she has no mom to bring, they begin asking more questions. “Who packs your lunch like my mom does for me?” “Who reads you bedtime stories like my mothers do for me?” “Who kisses you when you are hurt?” Stella has Daddy and Papa and other relatives who do all of those things. As the students decorate and craft invitations, “Stella worked harder than everyone.” The day of the event arrives, and Stella shows up with her fathers, uncle, aunt, cousin, and Nonna. And it all turns out well. One student brings his two moms, and another child invites his grandmother since his mother is away. Debut picture-book author Schiffer creates a story featuring diverse modern families that children will recognize from their own direct experiences or from their classrooms or communities. She keeps the text closely focused on Stella’s feelings, and Clifton-Brown chooses finely detailed watercolors to illustrate Stella’s initial troubles and eventual happiness.

Essential. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1190-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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