The refrain, “I love being me,” offers a worthwhile affirmation, but cookie-cutter faces undermine the message about...

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HAPPY HAIR

A book that pays homage to the versatility of black hair.

A dark-skinned black girl, eyes closed, face forward, greets readers on the cover against a bright yellow background, and she wears a pink bow (die-cut out of the case) in her wavy updo. This is one of many hairstyles featured in the illustrations, designed to help readers appreciate the potential for styling natural Afro hair. “Bomb braids,” “pom-pom puffs” and “‘fro-hawk” (an Afro-styled mohawk) also appear. Like these, most of the hairstyle names incorporate alliteration, making them fun to read aloud. At first glance, readers might think this book is about one girl’s hair—which is possible, given how many styles one head of afrotextured hair can sport—but skin color changes, as do clothes, earrings, and other details that are easily altered, although every girl holds the same face-front, eye-closed position. But the sameness of each face leaves no room for variations in other features such as the eyes, lips, and nose. Hence, young readers might consider this a paper version of the video games that allow changes in hairstyles on a face that has limited or no customizability—which also limits the book’s usefulness as multicultural literature.

The refrain, “I love being me,” offers a worthwhile affirmation, but cookie-cutter faces undermine the message about diversity. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9554-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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