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A joyful celebration of Cuban tradition and family ties.

A young Cuban American child visits Abuelo in Cuba and helps him sell fruit in the street.

As Abuelo pushes a cart laden with fruit, they sing out the names of the fruit in the cart: “mango, limón, coco, melón, / naranja, toronja, plátano, piña.” Their happy voices reach far, inviting people to come and purchase. Other street vendors join in, singing out their own wares. The louder they call out, the louder Abuelo must sing. Palacios’ vibrant illustrations beautifully capture the joy and liveliness of the event. The child tells readers, “my favorite visits…are on the eve of el año nuevo” when people buy 12 grapes and make a wish, one for each month of the new year. This child’s wish, reflecting the author’s own leitmotif, is for friendship between the two countries and a time when families on both sides of the narrow strip of ocean that separates them can freely visit. In the author’s note, Engle gives some details on the travel restrictions that keep families apart as well as explaining her choice to use Spanglish in the text. Readers also learn a little more about Cuban street vendors—pregoneros—and the tradition of having grapes on New Year’s Eve. The main character has exuberant wavy black hair and brown skin like Abuelo’s; other characters reflect Cuba’s racial diversity. The story publishes simultaneously in Spanish, with a translation by Alexis Romay. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A joyful celebration of Cuban tradition and family ties. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4489-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day.

In this picture book from pop star Kevin Jonas and his wife, TV personality Danielle Jonas, a rainy day forces a child to find an alternate way to enjoy the beach.

Family beach day is one of Bella’s favorite things. She loves splashing in the waves, jumping from rock to rock, and building sand castles. Today, however, the weather isn’t cooperating, but Bella isn’t upset. “It will just have to stop raining. That’s all.” Disappointment sets in when her family tells her that beach day is off. Teary Bella rejects suggested indoor pastimes like board games, musical jam sessions, or reading stories together, and she retreats to her room. Dejected, Bella consoles herself with her stuffed bunny, Mr. Bonkers, until her parents and sister, Emma, knock on her door with a surprise: “BEDROOM BEACH DAY!” With just a few household items—a big lamp for the sun, a fan for the ocean breeze, a blue blanket for water, and pillows for rocks—and a large dose of imagination, Bella’s bedroom is transformed. A flexible attitude from all helps Bella—and readers—realize that things may not always go as planned…but sometimes they can be even better than we expected. Whimsical, cartoonish drawings and a dialogue-driven narrative turn a setback into an uplifting family experience. Bella and her family are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780593352106

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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