Exuberant and loving; sure to incite giggles from kids and teary smiles from adults and possibly to unseat Oh, the Places...

SOMETIMES YOU FLY

This celebration of young people and the families that support them encourages persistence as children stumble through inevitable difficulties en route to triumph.

The opening page shows an exhausted-looking mother baking in a messy kitchen while the text reads “Before the cake….” The reverse side of the page is wordless, simply presenting the image of a jubilant child’s first birthday party, the guest of honor toddling along with cake-covered face and hands. The majority of the book follows this same pattern—a “before the” phrase paired with an image of struggle that accompanies the specific stage of life and a wordless, joyful illustration of the payoff on the verso. The book spans the milestones of childhood, from feeding oneself to first love and, eventually, graduation. The remaining few pages offer words of encouragement, reminding readers that failures and heartbreak are unavoidable but any setback can be an opportunity for growth. The humorous and emotionally evocative illustrations include culturally nonspecific characters with a variety of skin tones. The pages that depict a challenge are backgrounded by open, blank space, while the pages of success are fully illustrated, visually contrasting the feelings of frustration and isolation that can accompany the work of learning a new skill with the satisfaction of achievement.

Exuberant and loving; sure to incite giggles from kids and teary smiles from adults and possibly to unseat Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as a perennial graduation gift. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-547-63390-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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