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MEET COACH BEN

A powerful tale about achieving positive emotional health.

Awards & Accolades

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A coach helps students understand that real strength comes from the heart in this picture book that emphasizes both physical activity and good mental health.

One day, Hasan’s cousin Lucas, a blond-haired, blue-eyed White boy, comes to visit. Lucas becomes nervous about how much his dark-haired, tawny-skinned relative praises his physical education teacher, Coach Ben. In Lucas’ imagination, Coach Ben is like Heronite, a very strong, unemotional video game character Hasan loves. Hasan claims the teacher can do anything, but Lucas wonders: “Does Coach Ben ever cry?” When class starts, Lucas has the chance to ask, and it turns out that Coach Ben does, claiming, “Tears mean your heart is strong enough to get full in the first place.” This encouragement is just what Lucas needs to get inspired to be physically fit and to recognize his own feelings. Laid out like a comic, with speech and thought bubbles and panels, this critique of valuing “manliness” over “emotional intelligence” (as reflected in the stats of the video game) encourages readers to embrace their own feelings. Rezaie’s text is brief and accessible. While it offers Hasan’s views on various topics, the story revolves around Lucas’ emotional arc and personal growth. Lapitan’s detailed, hand-drawn, comic book–style illustrations feature a diverse cast, with mixed-heritage families and a group of students with many skin tones and hairstyles. Several easter-egg nods to other titles and inspiring quotes hide in the backgrounds.

A powerful tale about achieving positive emotional health.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63795-049-4

Page Count: 46

Publisher: Primedia eLaunch LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2022

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

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

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 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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