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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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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