A sweet, environmentally-conscious tale of unconditional love.


A young boy fears he’ll be his mom’s next fix-it-up project.

“There's Nothing my mom can’t do Something with,” protagonist Jake shares. From “tires and teapots” to “traffic cones and soup cans,” his mother sees treasure in trash, scouts dumpsters for hidden gems, and piles her wheelchair with odds and ends that they “simply must have.” (In a delightfully silly scene, she even tows home an abandoned trawler hitched to her wheelchair; it is refreshing to see a disabled character enacting slapstick humor.) In their cozily cluttered apartment, Mom “tinkers and tailors,” transforming her eclectic finds into new creations. A rusty truck becomes a flourishing daisy garden; a “damp bedraggled rat” is transformed into “quite a decent dog” in a humorously absurd montage. But when their curmudgeonly neighbor Mr. Price grumbles that Jake’s “must-have mom” “won’t be satisfied until she’s changed every last thing in the world,” Jake worries: Does she want to change him, too? In a poignant speech, Mom assures him that she wouldn't change a thing about him—he's her “one and only must-have son!”—and even Mr. Price can’t suppress a smile. Khatun’s scratchy, expressive cartoon-style illustrations energetically and colorfully complement Smith’s rhythmic, upbeat text. Mom’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the tender bond between mother and son radiates from their faces, accentuated by warm family portraits gracing the walls of their home. Jake and his mom have medium-brown skin and straight black hair; Mr. Price presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet, environmentally-conscious tale of unconditional love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-913747-71-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lantana

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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