A gender-affirming picture book with a lovable, indomitable star.


Téo loves to dance, but ballet class makes him nervous.

He and his parents practice their moves to both bhangra and cumbia, both of which are very different from ballet. In the studio, Téo nervously takes his place on the floor. During stretches, a boy makes fun of Téo’s tutu, but their teacher, Ms. Lila, immediately comes to Téo’s defense. For the rest of his first class and during the classes that follow, Téo loses himself in the joy of learning a new skill. The more he practices, the more confident and talented he feels. As the recital approaches, Téo is more and more excited to get on stage—until the costumes arrive. Téo picks out a shirt and pants, just like all the other boys. But he also takes home a lavender tutu, which is the costume he really wants to wear. On recital day, when he has to make a decision, Téo’s family encourages him to wear the clothes that he likes best, emphasizing that at times, being our authentic selves requires us all to be brave. This lyrical book bursts with sincerity without ever feeling preachy or forced. Téo’s parents and his teacher embrace Téo exactly as he is, infusing the story with love and triumph and ensuring that Téo is never reduced to the oppression he faces. Brown-skinned, curly-haired Téo is biracial, with a South Asian mom and Latinx dad, and his enthusiasm leaps from Marley’s artwork on every page. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gender-affirming picture book with a lovable, indomitable star. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1552-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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