A diverse family conveys a noteworthy message about food waste and the value of home gardening.

THE IMPERFECT GARDEN

A mother and child harvest fruits and veggies—some of them in funny shapes—from their backyard garden.

Jay narrates this spring-to-fall overview as the two sow, water, and pick their crops. Their cucumbers grow “in all kinds of twirly-whirly shapes!” When Jay wonders why supermarket cukes are so comparatively straight, Mom explains that nonconforming produce is discarded. Mom and Jay dig carrots, including a “two-legged” one. Jay takes bites of two-legged and ordinary carrots, pronouncing both “crunchy and delicious.” The pair harvests apples—some smooth, some bumpy. Including bumpy fruit yields an extra pie for their neighbor. Returning to the supermarket in October, Jay surveys the uniform produce displays, asking the grocer, “Don’t you have any twirly-whirly, lumpy, bumpy fruits and vegetables?” They’re led to an array of reduced-price, less-than-perfect produce—three-legged carrots and more. Assaly’s narrative drives home the point: Fresh produce needn’t be cosmetically perfect to be nourishing and tasty. Her concluding note attests that vast amounts of usable produce are trashed while many people live food-insecure. Filipinx Canadian illustrator dela Noche Milne depicts Jay and Mom with light brown skin and dark hair. Interiors and townscapes brim with charming detail.

A diverse family conveys a noteworthy message about food waste and the value of home gardening. (author’s note, gardening tips) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55455-408-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen.

BEING YOU

Words addressed to children aimed at truth-telling, encouraging, and inspiring are accompanied by pictures of children of color going about their days.

“This story is about you,” the narrator opens, as a black boy looks up toward readers, a listening expression on his face. A multiracial group of children romp in a playground to encouraging words: “you are… / a dancer / a singer / in charge of the game.” Then comes a warning about the “whispers” out in the world that “tell you who you are / But only you and love decide.” There is advice about what to do when you “think there is nowhere safe”: “Watch a bird soar / and think, / Me too.” It asks readers to wonder: “If there was a sign on your chest / what would it say?” Children argue and show frustration and anger for reasons unclear to readers, then they hold up signs about themselves, such as “I am powerful” and “I am talented.” A girl looks hurt, and a boy looks “tough” until someone finds them “sitting there wondering / when the sky will blue.” While the words are general, the pictures specify a teacher, who is brown-skinned with straight black hair, as one who “can see you.” While young readers may find the wording unusual, even obscure in places, the nurturing message will not be lost.

Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-021-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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