A novel though probably not universal look at first-day jitters.




Lena projects her nervousness about the first day of school onto her shoes, but how does one reach détente with footwear?

Lena is very excited for school. So is her dress, which is “very outgoing.” But those shoes are quaking in their, um, shoes. Lena’s dad suggests talking to them, but Lena is very matter-of-fact: They’re shoes. Duh! But her other clothes can talk to her footwear. Lena puts her headband next to her shoes and listens as the shoes express their fear: School is “big and loud and different.” The headband reminds the shoes of similar situations that they got through by being brave together, vignettes showing a doctor visit, a scary movie, and a big dog. The shoes are still unsure, so Lena announces she’ll wear her slippers. That does it. The final spread shows all the schoolchildren from the waist down, their shoes the focus. The seemingly digital illustrations use flat, solid colors in bright hues against brilliant backgrounds, several pages just black and white outlines with a few items picked out in vivid color for effect. Beige-skinned Lena’s dad’s skin is several shades darker than her own, and he has puffy brown hair. Her classmates are diverse and include a girl in hijab and a child in a wheelchair. The reminder of other tough situations survived may not be enough to calm readers’ own fears, however, despite the appealing whimsy of the device.

A novel though probably not universal look at first-day jitters. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0894-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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