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

SWIMMING WITH SEALS

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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Cool and stylish.

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ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST

Her intellectual curiosity is surpassed only by her passion for science. But what to do about her messy experiments?

Ada is speechless until she turns 3. But once she learns how to break out of her crib, there’s no stopping the kinky-haired, brown-skinned girl. “She tore through the house on a fact-finding spree.” When she does start speaking, her favorite words are “why,” “how,” and “when.” Her parents, a fashion-forward black couple who sport a variety of trendy outfits, are dumbfounded, and her older brother can only point at her in astonishment. She amazes her friends with her experiments. Ada examines all the clocks in the house, studies the solar system, and analyzes all the smells she encounters. Fortunately, her parents stop her from putting the cat in the dryer, sending her instead to the Thinking Chair. But while there, she covers the wall with formulae. What can her parents do? Instead of punishing her passion, they decide to try to understand it. “It’s all in the heart of a young scientist.” Though her plot is negligible—Ada’s parents arguably change more than she does—Beaty delightfully advocates for girls in science in her now-trademark crisply rhyming text. Roberts’ illustrations, in watercolor, pen, and ink, manage to be both smart and silly; the page compositions artfully evoke the tumult of Ada’s curiosity, filling white backgrounds with questions and clutter.

Cool and stylish. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2137-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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