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

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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

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

CLAYMATES

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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