As comforting and hopeful as a big hug.

THE BIG HUG

Two friends find ways to give hugs when world events keep them inside and apart.

Two friends, both Black, live on opposite sides of a quiet street and are inseparable. They play active games outdoors from morning till evening. When they fight, they always make up with a big hug and get back to playing together. But one day, they must stop playing, go inside, and stay apart for a long while. “Where can you put friendship when friends are apart? / Slowly, they learned.” From across the street, through windows and phones, they share “hugs” in the form of smiles, waves, songs, pictures, dance contests, and laughter. By the time they can return outdoors, playing while keeping their distance, they have discovered that “A friendship is a hug when you can’t be there.” And when they finally can “be together again,” they share one big physical hug. The bold cartoon illustrations in this picture book use thick black lines, expressive faces, and selective variations in white space, grayscale, bright color, and framing techniques to depict the roller coaster of feelings the children experience, from joy to isolation and back again. The simplicity of the story and its lack of specific detail (face coverings are not pictured, and the reason for the isolation is not named) make it emotionally resonant now and likely to remain relevant for years to come.

As comforting and hopeful as a big hug. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-57687-979-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: POW!

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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