Color-conscious—but that’s where it stops.

HONEYSMOKE

A STORY OF FINDING YOUR COLOR

A biracial girl tries to describe herself in terms of color.

Simone, whose mother is depicted as black and whose father is depicted as white in the digital illustrations with manga-style influences, asks her parents, “Am I black or white?” Both seem a bit dismissive. Mama says, “Boo…a color is just a word.” Daddy tells her, “you’re a little bit of both.” She then asks a diverse group of friends, “What color am I?” They respond in ways that individually align her with them. A black girl says she’s black. A white boy says she’s white. A girl of color whose race isn’t named says “You could be one or the other.” Simone then searches for colors. She’s not black like the tire swing that “stains her hands and clothes” (a line that may give readers pause). Nor is she white like the classroom glue that drips on her skin. But truly, no one is those colors, and the text shifts to present Simone reflecting that her black mother has skin that “reminds her of the honey from the beehives at Grandma’s house.” Unfortunately, she likens her father’s skin color to “the smoke that billows from Grandpa’s train,” which is quite a stretch, and even Moises doesn’t seem to try to make the smoke resemble Daddy’s pinkish skin tone. Simone combines these words to proudly call herself “honeysmoke,” and readers are invited to create their own color words, too. There is a need for books in which biracial children explore their mixed identities, but this simplistic tale goes only skin deep.

Color-conscious—but that’s where it stops. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-11582-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.

WAY PAST WORRIED

Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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