REAL SISTERS PRETEND

Adoption is such an individual event that it is difficult for one picture book to address every situation and circumstance....

An adoption story explores the concept of “real sisters.”

It is obvious that Tadgell’s sisters are not biologically related: Tayja is black, her hair in a topknot ponytail, while Mia is lighter-skinned with bright green eyes and tousled, short dark brown hair. But nevertheless, the two are real sisters—adoption made them so. Lambert’s purposive tale follows the two as they play a game of pretend princesses climbing a mountain (the sofa). Mia is still getting the hang of pretending (she thought the word was “betend”), so when she suggests they pretend to be sisters, Tayja holds Mia’s face in her hands, the two touching foreheads, and states, “No, Mia—we don’t have to pretend that. We are sisters. Real sisters.” She then helps Mia recall how they were adopted and became sisters and addresses the issue of outsiders’ comments and queries. (Further pushing the diversity of this family, it is headed by two moms.) The story is told entirely in the color-coded dialogue bubbles between the two sisters, which means the girls sometimes sound stilted and unnatural. But their interactions and pure joy in togetherness are anything but in the watercolor illustrations.

Adoption is such an individual event that it is difficult for one picture book to address every situation and circumstance. This is best used as a discussion starter with adopted children and for the outsiders who don’t understand that adoption creates families. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-88448-441-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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