A sweet story with emotional depth.

GROWING SEASON

Best friends and their flowers grow on different timelines, but patience cures all fears of being left behind.

The commonalities that El and Jo share seem to make it only natural that they are best friends—their short names, their small size, their small desks. But after Jo experiences a growth spurt in the spring, El is the only tiny person in class, and she feels smaller every day. At the end of the school year, each student picks a plant to take home and care for over the summer. Everyone reaches over El, who gets the last pot. Jo sees her friend’s small, flowerless aster, and she offers her zinnias; she is going to her grandma’s for the summer anyway. El plants the two side by side and waters them all summer, as she and Jo exchange letters. When Jo returns, the friends find, to their delight, that the aster isn’t the only small thing that has grown. The illustrations use gouache, colored pencil, and collage with delightful detail, most scenes on ample white space, with a few busy spreads that reflect El’s feelings. El, with tightly curled brown hair and tan skin, appears racially ambiguous, and Jo appears Asian. Their diverse classroom includes black, brown, and Asian children and a girl who uses a wheelchair. An endnote on plant life cycles differentiates annuals from perennials and biennials.

A sweet story with emotional depth. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2704-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here.

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THE COUCH POTATO

Can a couch potato peel themself off their beloved, comfortable couch?

John and Oswald’s titular spud certainly finds it very hard to do so. Why should they leave their “comfy, cozy couch” when everything that’s needed is within reach? Their doodads and gadgets to amuse and entertain, their couch’s extendable gloved hands to grab food from the kitchen, and screens upon screens to watch their favorite TV shows (highlights: MadYam, Fries), play their favorite video games, and livestream their friends. Where’s the need to leave the living room? Then…“PEW-WWWWWWW”! The electricity goes out one day. Left without screens and gizmos, the couch potato decides to take dog Tater “for a walk…outside,” where the trees and birds and skies seem rich, “like a high-resolution 156-inch curved screen, but even more realistic.” The outdoor experience proves cathartic and freeing, away from those cords that bind, liberating enough to commit this couch potato to spending more time off the couch. Similar to The Bad Seed (2017), The Good Egg (2019), and The Cool Bean (2019) in small-scale scope and moral learning, this latest guidebook to life retains John’s attention to textual goodness, balancing good-humored laughs with a sincere conversational tone that immediately pulls readers in. Naturally, Oswald’s succinct artwork—loaded with genial spuds, metatextual nods, and cool aloofness—continues this loose series’ winsome spirit. No counterarguments here, couch potatoes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 65.9% of actual size.)

Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295453-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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