“Splendiferous” may be an overstatement, but this book on being yourself is suitable for youngsters.

An exuberant invitation for children to express themselves, however they choose.

Kids of different skin tones, hair textures, and outfits frolic through a candy-colored world as rhyming couplets extol self-determination: “I can be everything I want to be. / I can be all of magnificent me!” Though gender isn’t explicitly mentioned, many affirmations challenge dominant cultural gender norms around activities and feelings. In one scene, all the children wear pink tutus. In another, the narrator states that they can “ask for a hug / when I’m trembling with fright.” An illustrator’s note at the beginning of the book asks readers not to make “assumptions about who any of these kids are. They are who they are, and they are everything they want to be.” The characters play with race cars, sing lullabies to dolls, and pummel pillows to vent frustration. With no characters gendered in the text, the conversation about “who any of these kids are” is left as a more open-ended question. In the end, the kids conclude, “I am splendiferous… / and so are YOU!” The simplicity of the book’s upbeat couplets, paired with illustrator Gonzalez’s whimsical art, will appeal to some. However, the characters’ doll-like faces vary little in their countenance, dampening the message around fully experiencing emotions and the overall atmosphere of the story. In a growing field of picture books about self-expression, this one doesn’t stand out. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

“Splendiferous” may be an overstatement, but this book on being yourself is suitable for youngsters. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9781643792057

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023


Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

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. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


A spot-on series installment that imparts a valuable lesson on the importance of honesty.

Will Llama Llama come clean after breaking one of Mama’s prized possessions?

While Mama Llama gardens outdoors, Llama Llama and a friend who appears to be a young goat play inside. Their boisterous activities include pillow fighting, running up the stairs and sliding down the bannister, swinging from lamps, and jumping on the sofa—fun that is possible “Only when Mama is not there.” They move on to playing catch: Llama Llama throws vigorously, and the ball shatters Mama’s favorite picture frame. Uh-oh. What to do? The pair consider running to Kalamazoo. When Mama returns, Llama Llama first blames the wind, then a dinosaur, then a meteorite. Mama doubts these possibilities, and Llama Llama cries but admits to the lie. Mama praises his courage, and the three of them repair the frame. Later, throwing a pass outside, Mama breaks a window herself! With humor and sympathy, this tale brings to life a very common experience that will resonate with preschoolers. Mama reacts with model parenting, and Llama Llama quickly accepts the blame and the necessity of truth-telling. Morrow’s illustrations add both drama and a reassuring note. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A spot-on series installment that imparts a valuable lesson on the importance of honesty. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9780593352489

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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