The creators’ matter-of-fact embrace of inclusion is the highlight of an otherwise uneven poetry collection.

I'M THE BIG ONE NOW!

POEMS ABOUT GROWING UP

Award-winning poet Singer explores the stumbles and triumphs that go hand in hand as preschoolers become big kids.

From a three-part poem that appears in three different sections to two poems for two voices, these 19 poems encapsulate the myriad experiences of a diverse cast of grade schoolers. Just as the featured accomplishments span a wide range of “firsts,” so do Singer’s observations span a variety of poetic forms and rhyming schemes. Free verse intermingles with snappy quatrains, and introspection mingles with shouts of joy. “We figure it out! / We let out a hoot. / We find in the doghouse / a big bag of loot!” at a “First Big-Kid Party.” However, the quality of these snapshots does not reflect the poet's previous noteworthy efforts. “Not big enough / to drive a car / (or my bike real far), / to grow a beard / (plus I’d look weird), / to stay up late / (like way past eight), / to own a phone… / But plenty big / to take a bus / without a fuss / and go to school / ALONE!” just doesn’t have her usual zing. Christy’s watercolor images capture gap-toothed grins and snaggle-brow frowns with equal aplomb. A hijab-wearing mother in a theater is pictured next to a ballpark scene featuring a baseball cap–wearing young lady.

The creators’ matter-of-fact embrace of inclusion is the highlight of an otherwise uneven poetry collection. (Picture book/poetry. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-169-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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ABC OF FEELINGS

An alphabetical tour of emotions.

This British import mixes words that many young kids will know, such as brave, kind, and mad (the last defined in the American sense, as angry), with less-familiar ones such as overwhelmed and vulnerable. It even features at least one word that may be new to adults: “X is for Xenial….Xenial is being welcoming to strangers.” Compounding the difficulty here, the visual image of a Black kid dressed as a magician hugging a rabbit they’ve pulled out of a hat does not exactly illustrate xeniality (xenialness?). Other illustrations do a better job of helping readers understand the words being introduced. The illustrations feature racially diverse children and are usually paired in each double-page spread: “A is for Anxious. Anxious is feeling really worried about something. / B is for Brave. Brave is being nervous about something and doing it anyway.” On the A page, a brown-skinned kid cowers from the dragon that encircles their bed, as in a nightmare. Across the gutter on the B page, the ferociously scowling child confronts the now-intimidated monster. Kids will get an immediate sense of those two words. Animals, real and imaginary, often play a role in the pictures. The book will be best shared one on one or in very small groups, when children can really spend time examining the pictures and talking about their own impression of what is happening in each picture. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A mixed bag. (word list) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20519-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.”

MY AMERICA

Whose America? The title pages are telling. As is the cover art.

In this read-aloud, the cover image of a sea of smiling faces in many skin hues suggests plurality (we/our) rather than the singular possessive “my.” Within, colorful spreads evoking early childhood drawings and self-portraits accompany text that poses as first-person narratives, as though real children were rendering their individual experiences. One-dimensional depictions of motives and methods of immigration to “America” result in dichotomies—here/there, then/now—that oversimplify differences and perpetuate stereotypes: Tae speaks of eating rice and kimchee in South Korea versus pizza in New York; Samaira from India informs readers: “I wear a bindi on my forehead.” And does a white child (Anna) asserting “All my family lives here….We have been here a long time” belong in this story centering children who have recently “come to live in America”? Notable absences of Native American and African American descendants—whose families have been here even longer than Swedish American Anna’s—underscore a thematic inconsistency, raising the question as to whose America this picture book, in fact, showcases. These simplistic, reductive representations undo otherwise bold attempts to promote empathy and inclusion. The well-known excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that acts as inscription on the Statue of Liberty closes the text.

Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.” (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9012-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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