Just as he did with the wonderful Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (1995), Moss makes child’s play out of sophisticated verse that will keep young ears rapt. Here, it’s a marching band that slowly gets assembled, as he identifies each aspiring musician and accompanying instrument: “One house away, Shavaun O’Shea, / In mapping out her life, / Had planned to blow a piccolo / (Which some folks call a fife).” As Ralph and Harry and Maureen get familiar with their trombones and sousaphones and glockenspiels, the neighborhood gets a taste of cacophony: “ ‘That sound annoys! It near destroys! / They bellow and complain. / ‘Confound that noise! / Those girls and boys are driving us insane.’ ” But the learning curve is not too cruel and soon the band is good enough to impress the mayor, who invites them to the July 4th parade, where they do the town proud. “You sound so good. / When starting out, we had no doubt, / We always knew you would.” Moss conveys not just the joy of music making, but, more subtly, the need to practice hard to get it right. Bluthenthal’s (Bertie’s Picture Day, not reviewed, etc.) cartoon art matches the verve of Moss’s words, and provides for as much cultural variety in the players as there are instruments. Goggle-eyed kids, in various shapes and sizes, strut their stuff across pages of all-American landscape to the delight of their equally goofy parents. And just so you notice, the mayor is an African-American woman. Hip hip hooray! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23335-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.


Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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