The warmth of family love and support wafts enticingly through this homage to tradition.

The aroma of steamy corn deliciousness wraps Abuela’s home in incredible warmth and anticipation.

Alongside mounds of masa, earthy roasted chiles, and seasoned meat, the entire family forms an assembly line of cooperation and laughter. Family stories are shared and passed down to the kids, along with Abuela’s own unique way of creating her tamales. Each step carries a special message of encouragement: “may you always be flexible”; “may you always stand tall and proud”; “may you have lots and lots of hugs.” The tamales are wrapped in their pliable husks stuffed with dreams, hope, and love—and meat and chiles. As they steam, the family waits with paciencia—patience. Music, singing, and storytelling reverberate within the walls of Abuela’s home. Finally, the tamales are done. The savory Christmas Eve gifts are unwrapped one by one, and Abuela proclaims as the tamales disappear, “May your life be delicious!” Genhart’s loving tribute to the women of his Mexican American family is heartfelt and sincere. His mother is revealed in the author’s note to be the nieta (granddaughter) of the story, and she continues the family legacy at the book’s end with a new tamalada: “You start with una hoja….” The semibilingual text carries Lora’s illustrations, as they convey organized chaos while flickering between the vibrant colors of Christmas present and gray-toned memories of the past.

The warmth of family love and support wafts enticingly through this homage to tradition. (illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951836-22-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Questioneers series

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out.

Teachers influence children profoundly.

From earliest childhood, Lila Greer, the youngest of five in a single-dad household, has been a worrier. Then the family moves. Entering second grade feels overwhelming: Nothing’s familiar, and she has no friends. But Ms. Kern, Lila’s new teacher, invites Lila to erase the chalkboard at recess and to articulate her fears. It helps that someone listens. Soon, classmates get into the act, and lonely Lila makes friends, emerges from her shell, and learns that “what ifs” have positive sides. Lila grows up, still fretting sometimes, and then becomes a new teacher who worries upon meeting her own students. But then she remembers the teacher who helped her overcome her fears and doubts years earlier. What was that marvelous, ineffable quality Ms. Kern possessed? Then Lila remembers: It was kindness! Harnessing that memory, Lila now welcomes her own “smiling young faces.” This is a sweet story that emphasizes good cheer, helpfulness, and the importance of feeling welcome and heard, no matter who you are: terrific messages, expressed in bouncy verses that scan well. The illustrations are colorfully lively. Readers will appreciate occasional displays of humorous and quirky typesetting creativity and will admire Lila’s poufy topknot, which resembles a huge ball of yarn. Lila is light-skinned, Ms. Kern is tan-skinned, and other characters are diverse.

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781419769047

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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