A must-have celebration of cultural understanding and community—and the joy of family.

THE BIG BATH HOUSE

Family, community, body positivity, and a nice hot bath—ahhhhh!

A young international traveler with beige skin and straight dark hair eagerly greets her grandmother at Baachan’s home in Japan. Accompanied by gregarious aunties with “big stories and bigger purses,” she and Baachan visit the big bath house nearby and engage in a cultural, communal event: the Japanese bath. A soapy shower comes first so the women enter the bath clean. Then the girl joins all kinds of women—old and young, thin and fat—who are naked and thoroughly enjoying the hot water and female companionship. Together, the young girls dance while the women talk in this protected and private (yet public) space. Entering the pool, they all take “a chorus of one long breath. Ahhhhh.” Beautifully loose-lined and delicately colored illustrations depict vibrant, earth-toned scenes so soaked with conversation and interaction that, if readers lean close, they might be able to listen in. Various skin tones and body shapes and sizes celebrate a broad spectrum of body diversity. Rhythmic, occasionally rhyming second-person narration invites young readers into the rollicking fun of the bath-house experience. The girl and Baachan understand each other without saying a word—a powerful metaphor for how this book can serve as a cultural bridge between Western and Eastern sensibilities of privacy and body positivity. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A must-have celebration of cultural understanding and community—and the joy of family. (glossary, author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18195-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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