Sensitively pragmatic.

READ REVIEW

SAME WAY BEN

Change happens, even to those who prefer otherwise.

“Ben liked things the same way—every day.” His clothes, the greeting from his teacher, Mrs. Garcia, and what he eats for lunch: chicken strips and an apple. But one day, the music teacher announces he’ll be their substitute for the next six weeks since Mrs. Garcia just had her baby. The substitute’s penchant for “changing things up” doesn’t sit well with Ben, and after one too many alterations, he cries out. Mrs. Garcia, coincidentally in the classroom on a surprise lunch visit with her baby, tells him that “changes make life exciting…like an adventure.” Ben accepts a bite of Mrs. Garcia’s snack—bagels with blueberries and cream cheese—and realizes he likes it. He decides to willingly try mixing some things up. Bright, cartoony drawings make the daily routine of a classroom come alive, worthily representing the center of this child’s world. Ben has beige skin and brown hair, his classmates are racially diverse and one child uses a wheelchair, and the two teachers present white. Although it is never specified, Ben’s preference for continuity could be read as stemming from autism, though the text treats Ben the same as the other members of the class. Young readers, including many not on the spectrum, can empathize with the character’s reluctance to embrace change, so the book could be a good discussion starter.

Sensitively pragmatic. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7222-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.”

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I AM EVERY GOOD THING

A much-needed book for Black children when society demonstrates otherwise.

The Kirkus Prize–, Coretta Scott King Honor–, Newbery Honor–, and Caldecott Honor–winning team behind Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (2017) return for another celebration of Black excellence. In a text brimming with imagination and Black-boy joy, Barnes lays the foundation for young Black readers to go forth into the world filled with confidence and self-assurance: “I am brave. I am hope. / I am my ancestors’ wildest dream. / I am worthy of success, / of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.” Simultaneously, he opens a window for non-Black readers to see Black boys’ humanity. They have dreams, feel pain, are polite and respectful—the list of qualities goes on. Barnes also decides to address what is waiting for them as they experience the world. “I am not what they might call me.” With this forceful statement, he provides a tool for building Black resilience, reassuring young Black readers that they are not those names. James supplies his customarily painterly art, his brushy oils painting Black boys of every shade of brown playing, celebrating, achieving, aspiring, and loving. Through every stroke readers will see that Black boys are “worthy / to be loved.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51877-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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