Not a lot to dig into here, but it’s an inclusive depiction of children at play.

READ REVIEW

BREE FINDS A FRIEND

An interest in worms and digging in the dirt helps a little girl make a friend at school.

As the book opens, a multicultural cast of children pairs off to enjoy various playground activities. After seeing three such pairings, it’s notable that African-American Bree is “playing by herself.” She digs in the dirt until she finds a worm, and at first glance, it seems that this is the friend mentioned in the title. Happily, such an anticlimactic resolution does not emerge. Instead, another, older, Caucasian girl hiding behind a nearby tree observes Bree playing with the worm and approaches her to play, too. The brightly colored, saturated illustrations feature rounded figures that seem like they would be at home in television animation, but they fail to elevate the text to read-it-again status since the story doesn’t build too much of a plot. The children bond while playing in the dirt, unearthing other worms to make up a family and collecting them all in a bucket. When playtime is over, the girls go hand in hand into the school, with plans to return to their play later. (The likely end for the poor worms goes unexplored.)

Not a lot to dig into here, but it’s an inclusive depiction of children at play. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60554-211-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Redleaf Lane

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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