A rare find about family featuring a mixed-raced protagonist.

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WHEN THE COUSINS CAME

In a story that’s reminiscent of “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” a young mixed Japanese-white girl savors creating summer memories with her cousins.

“The night before the cousins came, I couldn’t sleep.” Country girl Lila is excited to host city cousins Rosie and Takeo, who sport hair styled in “two puffy balls” and “a little shark fin,” respectively. Her bucket list is full of simple pleasures, such as painting and camping outside. Luckily for her, her cousins are game, and they take turns teaching each other new things, such as skateboarding, riding a bike, and how to eat with chopsticks, “ ‘Hold them like this,’ said Takeo. I tried…and tried.” (The page offers four amusing scenes of Lila first awkwardly using the unfamiliar utensils and then finally gaining mastery.) Lila also introduces her cousins to fireflies. “ ‘What is that?!?’ asked Takeo. I caught a firefly and cupped it in my hands. The firefly bumped gently against the walls of my palms. ‘Just look,’ I whispered to Rosie.” Yamasaki uses deceptively simple, carefully chosen language for the brief blocks of text on each page. The rest of the story is told through her paintings, which are defined by bright brush strokes of color. The overall effect is a quiet story that captures all those small cherished moments in childhood.

A rare find about family featuring a mixed-raced protagonist. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3457-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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