An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition.

AMBITIOUS GIRL

A little girl tells readers—and herself—all about the importance of being ambitious.

The story starts with a wordless illustration of a little brown-skinned girl with textured black curls stopping to watch television sets displayed in a store window. The TVs display a Black woman confidently speaking at a microphone. But while the girl appears impressed, the television commentators are not. They call the politician too “assertive,” “ambitious,” “confident,” and “proud.” The little girl looks devastated, but the politician on TV is not. In response to this criticism, she declares that no one can define us and that it’s up to us to define ourselves. The remaining pages are a poetic ode to ambition, beginning with the girl’s own insecurities about being told, repeatedly, to be quieter, duller, or more patient. Like the politician she admires on TV, the unnamed protagonist does not let this criticism stop her. Instead, she reflects on what she has—her supportive family, for example, and ambitious women who’ve gone before (depicted as the suffragists, Shirley Chisholm, and Mae Jemison)—and who she wants to be. Generally, the rhyming text is buoyant with hope, although some concepts feel on the abstract side for children: “And if we fail, it’s a chance to disrupt.” The soft watercolor illustrations amplify the book’s underlying messages of love and hope, filling the backgrounds with a multiracial cast of women diverse in age, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.7-by-16.4-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45.1% of actual size.)

An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-22969-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more