Not since Peter Pan’s has a shadow commanded such well-deserved attention

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SMOOT

A REBELLIOUS SHADOW

In the middle of a city filled with Old World stuccoed walls and tiled roofs, a boy’s shadow yearns to break free.

“If life is a book, then Smoot the Shadow had been reading the same yawn-colored page for seven and a half years.” The light-skinned boy connected to the protagonist—clad in shorts, jacket, and baseball cap—leads a rigid, mostly black-and-white life; he colors inside the lines. Smoot (a blend of “smudge” and “soot”?) finally breaks free. As the shadow wordlessly, gleefully skips rope, rides a carousel, and climbs a tree, the boy is ever watchful from the margins. Inspired, other shadows follow their dreams: a frog’s shadow turns into a prince, and a dragonfly’s breathes fire. Imagining unintended consequences were this to continue, Smoot quickly finds satisfying, child-sized solutions for his restless counterparts and reunites with his boy, whose own spark has been ignited. Cuevas’ plotline radiates freshness and celebrates the rewards of risk-taking. Smith has a keen understanding of the power of the contrast between blackness and color. Employing ink and watercolor, he skillfully exploits this dynamic to both foreground the silhouetted characters and, in concert with decisions about when to use frames or full bleeds and controlled lines or looser strokes, to underscore the distinctions between a constricted and unfettered existence.

Not since Peter Pan’s has a shadow commanded such well-deserved attention . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42969-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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