A thoughtful, vibrantly illustrated cancer story for young children.

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Coughlin Kim and Cheresnick’s picture book gives a child’s-eye view of how a father’s cancer affects a loving family.

When Dad is diagnosed with cancer, Cameron calls it the “cancer dragon.” Cameron, sister Chloe, and Mom unite “to help Dad fight.” Although they aim to keep up with their normal activities, cancer affects their daily lives, and Cameron describes some of the changes in child-friendly language. During Dad’s treatments, for example, doctors “shine a special light, called radiation, on the special places…where the cancer dragon likes to hide.” Even so, the unpredictability can be nerve-wracking for the family. Cameron worries that Dad “might not come home” following an unplanned hospital visit but feels relieved after chatting with Mom and Chloe. Over time, Dad’s condition fluctuates. Sometimes he feels stronger and “life seems almost normal.” Other times, sickness leaves him irritable and unable to eat. Coughlin Kim deals with such realities with a blend of honesty and gentleness that should comfort young readers in similar situations. Children may also appreciate learning a few facts, such as that radiation “is boring but doesn’t really hurt.” In words and pictures, the author shows that the family can still have fun together: They can “play sports,” “put on shows,” “celebrate birthdays,” “eat dinner together,” and do other enjoyable activities. Ultimately, Cameron emphasizes the importance of affection and care, saying, “Every day is a good day to tell my Dad that I love him.” Cheresnick’s clear hand-painted illustrations support the text with engaging colors and textures, juxtaposing scenes involving Dad’s challenges with those of watercolor skies, grassy lawns, and gigantic hearts. Cameron sometimes battles the dragon wearing a superhero outfit, and an outline of a dragon appears around Dad when he feels ill. In a story inspired partly by the author’s husband, Mom is White; Dad is Asian, and the children have light skin and brown hair. The book ends with a brief, helpful page of resources for children and families facing cancer.

A thoughtful, vibrantly illustrated cancer story for young children.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73750-711-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: When a Dragon Comes

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2022


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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