Although this luminous tale of self-discovery has echoes of “The Little Mermaid,” like Minnow, it sings its own strong song.

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THE MERMAID AND THE SHOE

Unlike her talented older sisters, a little mermaid feels disappointingly ordinary until her curiosity unveils her special skills.

Each of King Neptune’s 50 mermaid daughters has a remarkable talent—except Minnow, who asks lots of questions, like why crabs don’t have fins, where bubbles go and what lies beyond their underwater kingdom. Her sister Calypso dismissively chides her to “stop asking useless questions…and be remarkable.” When Minnow discovers a mysterious object no one can identify, she’s determined to find out what it is. Her relentless curiosity carries her above water, where Minnow sees a girl wearing a pair of shoes similar to the mysterious object. With her questions answered, Minnow triumphantly returns to her underwater family, heralded as a “daring explorer.” Delicate, ethereal watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations rely on muted blue-gray washes accented with splashes of color to convey Neptune’s underwater kingdom, with its flora and fauna. Kelp-enclosed cameo close-ups of Minnow and her sisters with white, gossamer hair and golden-scaled tails alternate with luminous double-page spreads featuring diminutive Minnow, carrying a scarlet shoe and fearlessly ascending from the dark underwater world into the brilliant sun and sky, where she watches a “landmaid” reveal the secret of shoes.

Although this luminous tale of self-discovery has echoes of “The Little Mermaid,” like Minnow, it sings its own strong song. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-771-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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