Richly rewarding and clever: a visually arresting, inventive treatment of a popular subject.

In this spirited collaboration, Salas and López present 24 suggestive poetic snapshots chronicling the cycle of a year.

Highlighting season-appropriate objects for spring, fall, summer, and winter, Salas magnifies the spareness of the haiku form by turning each concentrated first-person portrait into a riddle as she tantalizingly omits naming the subject describing itself. Meanwhile López offers young and pre-readers florid visual hints, depicting in deft brush strokes and lush colors the author’s hidden subjects. Combined, these artists render objects gentle as summer’s fireflies (“fire in our bellies / we FLICKER-FLASH in twilight— / rich meadow of stars”) or winter’s snowflakes (“I’m cold confetti / falling from a crystal sky, / blanketing the town,” here shown as a white-roofed town in a snow globe painted against a wintry verdigris sky spackled with haphazard white blots) or bold as a fall jack-o’-lantern (“I perch on the porch, / spooky face frozen in place, / fire BURNING inside”—glowering large with flaming orange eyes as the finger of a ghostly trick-or-treater rings the doorbell in the background). What sets this volume apart from similar haiku explorations of the seasons is the tight synthesis of visual object and oblique verbal depiction, making for both wonderfully contemplative experiences of each illustrated poem and the seamless progression of nature’s cycle through the year.

Richly rewarding and clever: a visually arresting, inventive treatment of a popular subject. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5124-9809-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019


Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


In a word: Wonderful.

A spelling-bee champ welcomes readers to the zesty, awesome world of wording wizardry.

Whether you recite it from A to Z or in reverse, the alphabet’s cool, not to mention the words you can build by combining its letters in myriad ways. Such is the premise of this cheerful book that lists 26 empowering words, from Z to A—Avant-garde’s own initials—each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (except X, for which extraordinary subs). Each word is a favorite of the teen author, who in 2021 became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The word list begins and ends with the author’s own names (Zaila, meaning “mighty, powerful,” and Avant-garde, “to be at the forefront”). On each page, the same word appears three to five times, printed in boldfaced type, alongside brief, thought-provoking, upbeat observations. The words cavort spiritedly on the page in hyphenated form (“L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R,” “K-I-N-D-N-E-S-S”), inviting readers to draw their pronunciations out slowly, as if to playfully savor their “feel.” A pithy quotation from luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Sitting Bull, and Shakira accompanies each word. Energetic, bold illustrations featuring dynamic patterns and characters diverse in skin tone, age, and physical ability greatly enliven the book. Readers should be strongly encouraged to create personal word lists and commentaries. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

In a word: Wonderful. (the origins of Zaila’s words of wonder) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 27, 2023

ISBN: 9780593568934

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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