Well-illustrated poetry of the best kind that will leave sunshine in its wake.

LAYLA'S HAPPINESS

Affirmations of black childhood abound, and whimsical wishes float like dandelion fluff.

Seven-year-old Layla, wearing long, thick braids and a bright yellow dress, talks about what makes her happiest: dark purple plums, the full moon, and night’s darkness, shedding positive light on what often gets portrayed negatively. Appropriately, Layla’s name means “night beauty.” Though clearly an urban dweller, Layla loves the outdoors. She climbs trees, hangs out near a stream to hear her dad’s stories of his South Carolina childhood, and tends vegetables and feeds chickens in their community garden. She even brings the outdoors inside with a makeshift tent, in which her mom reads poetry aloud to her. This book’s language clearly reveals the hand of a poet. Tallie’s metaphorical language evokes imagery that encourages young readers to dream and look both within and around them to find their own sources of happiness. Layla marvels that “the sea reaches into her pocket to give me a sand dollar” and chooses the full moon as her favorite thing because “it sits in the sky like a wish flower’s sister.” Equally as imaginative as the lyrical text, Corrin’s boldly colored, textured illustrations beautifully capture the buoyant spirit of Layla, a brown girl exuding confidence, comfortable in her own skin—indoors and out.

Well-illustrated poetry of the best kind that will leave sunshine in its wake. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59270-288-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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