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SWIMMING WITH SEALS

A needed but uneven addition to diverse family stories, best for children whose caregivers are ready for questions.

A little girl growing up with extended family cherishes a visit with her mother.

Ally, illustrated as a child of color with brown skin and dark, curly hair, is being raised by her grandmother and great-aunt (who both appear white with light skin and blue eyes) “far, far away from her mom.” Ally also visits her white-appearing aunt and uncle every summer, and her aunt answers many questions about her mother by drawing on childhood memories of their growing-up years. The text never explains why this arrangement is so, not even when Ally’s mother visits while she’s with her aunt and uncle. Both the words and multimedia pictures excel, however, at honoring the special time mother and daughter share. She, like Ally, has brown skin and dark curly hair, and they also both love to “swim like a pair of seals.” Unfortunately, the unanswered questions about why Ally lives apart from her mother and why she can’t go with her when she ends the visit may prove difficult for some readers. An author’s note alludes to the author’s adopted sister, who “had many struggles in her life,” which led her to agree to have her adoptive mother raise her own daughter, but this backmatter content doesn’t go quite far enough to fill in the gaps in this fictionalized story.

A needed but uneven addition to diverse family stories, best for children whose caregivers are ready for questions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1321-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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