Calming, positive, and serenely affirmative.

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YOU HOLD ME UP

A simple recitation of the ways that people can be supportive of one another.

“This book was written in the spirit of reconciliation and is dedicated to the children, families and staff of Aboriginal Head Start programs.” That is the dedication; at the end, there is a longer note about notorious Indian Residential schools, where, for over 150 years, indigenous children in Canada were humiliated and abused. In between, all the words and art offer a warm and positive message. Simple and pointed phrases are printed boldly on white or pastel backgrounds on half of each double-page spread, with stylized, bright, watercolor illustrations on each opposing page. Each brown- or tan-skinned face has cheeks with outlined, bright pink circles; other features are sweetly expressive lines of ink, sometimes including little hearts for mouths. Birds, flowers, and gaily patterned wallpapers add to a feeling of contentment and communal power. The image of an adult and two children, eyes closed, singing outside by moonlight and beating on drums, is especially strong, as is an illustration of two hugging children of different skin colors and hair types. The titular phrase “You hold me up,” followed by simple words such as “when you listen to me,” is used several times until the final pages, where it is replaced by “I hold you up” and “We hold each other up.” A final, multigenerational picnic is lovely.

Calming, positive, and serenely affirmative. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1447-9

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

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  • Newbery Medal Winner

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A young boy yearns for what he doesn’t have, but his nana teaches him to find beauty in what he has and can give, as well as in the city where they live.

CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain or take the bus or go places after church. But through Nana’s playful imagination and gentle leadership, he begins to see each moment as an opportunity: Trees drink raindrops from straws; the bus breathes fire; and each person has a story to tell. On the bus, Nana inspires an impromptu concert, and CJ’s lifted into a daydream of colors and light, moon and magic. Later, when walking past broken streetlamps on the way to the soup kitchen, CJ notices a rainbow and thinks of his nana’s special gift to see “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Through de la Peña’s brilliant text, readers can hear, feel and taste the city: its grit and beauty, its quiet moments of connectedness. Robinson’s exceptional artwork works with it to ensure that readers will fully understand CJ’s journey toward appreciation of the vibrant, fascinating fabric of the city. Loosely defined patterns and gestures offer an immediate and raw quality to the Sasek-like illustrations. Painted in a warm palette, this diverse urban neighborhood is imbued with interest and possibility.

This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25774-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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