Not yet affirming.

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NOT YET A YETI

A British import presents an allegory about self-knowledge, acceptance, and, maybe, coming out.

George’s grandad, mom, dad, and older sister are all yetis—all of them but George. George asks his grandad, dad, and older sister: “When will I be a yeti?” Each of them give him various responses: “When you can survive alone on a frozen mountain, waiting to lure stray hikers to their DOOM,” or “when you can chase people round the mountain until they SCREAM with TERROR.” Not wild about those options, George turns to Mom, who asks, “Do you want to be a yeti?” He thinks about it only to realize that he wants to be a unicorn. At the moment when George realizes his innermost desire, Neal depicts a rainbow bridge atop which gambol pastel unicorns holding balloons, riding a bicycle, and blowing bubbles. In a decision that feels odd for a book about nonconformity, Mom dons pink pearls and an apron, older sister wears pink bows, and Grandad and Dad are aggressive and loud, all reinforcing gender stereotypes. The title of the book goes for alliteration and humor but seems to lack forethought. If the yetis are a metaphor for normative culture, then what is the book saying about them? Treleaven delivers a well-meaning message inclusive of self-definition and acceptance—but readers should consider opting for Jessica Love’s Julián Is a Mermaid (2018) instead.

Not yet affirming. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-84886-414-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Maverick Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

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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The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.”

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I AM EVERY GOOD THING

A much-needed book for Black children when society demonstrates otherwise.

The Kirkus Prize–, Coretta Scott King Honor–, Newbery Honor–, and Caldecott Honor–winning team behind Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (2017) return for another celebration of Black excellence. In a text brimming with imagination and Black-boy joy, Barnes lays the foundation for young Black readers to go forth into the world filled with confidence and self-assurance: “I am brave. I am hope. / I am my ancestors’ wildest dream. / I am worthy of success, / of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.” Simultaneously, he opens a window for non-Black readers to see Black boys’ humanity. They have dreams, feel pain, are polite and respectful—the list of qualities goes on. Barnes also decides to address what is waiting for them as they experience the world. “I am not what they might call me.” With this forceful statement, he provides a tool for building Black resilience, reassuring young Black readers that they are not those names. James supplies his customarily painterly art, his brushy oils painting Black boys of every shade of brown playing, celebrating, achieving, aspiring, and loving. Through every stroke readers will see that Black boys are “worthy / to be loved.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51877-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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