Not quite a perfect balance here—but visually delightful nonetheless

THE YIN-YANG SISTERS AND THE DRAGON FRIGHTFUL

Can two sisters conquer the dragon who terrorizes their village?

The villagers of Woo are supremely inconvenienced by an ornery dragon who takes up residence across a bridge that connects their homes to the market. That same day, the Lee twins are born, one as fierce as the other is mild. Their auntie predicts that, like yin and yang, the two will be stronger together and defeat the dragon. The prose riffs satisfyingly on folklore conventions; readers and listeners will especially appreciate the repeated refrain: “Still, they were sisters. They stuck together.” Offermann’s stirring pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations create a deeply textured world, moving seamlessly from breathtaking vistas to intimate close-ups. A double-page–spread image of the two girls as infants, snuggled together in a round basket, so aptly captures the concept of yin and yang, with a smart reference to the icon. Precise harmony eludes the narrative though, which devotes much more time to the thoughtful, “oozy”-feeling Mei, who arguably could have handled the dragon alone, than to fierce Wei. And for a story so clearly informed by imperial China, missed opportunities (additional resources about yin and yang, use of Chinese characters rather than scribbles in the illustrations) and misdirection (fabricated names and spelling conventions that approximate actual places or things) leave it treading near appropriation.

Not quite a perfect balance here—but visually delightful nonetheless . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17115-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY

At school, everyone is excited about the upcoming Mother’s Day celebration except for Stella. She is not sure what she will do since she has two dads and no mom.

Stella is easy to spot on the page with her curly red hair but also because she looks so worried. She is not sure what she is going to do for the party. When her classmates ask her what is the matter and she tells them she has no mom to bring, they begin asking more questions. “Who packs your lunch like my mom does for me?” “Who reads you bedtime stories like my mothers do for me?” “Who kisses you when you are hurt?” Stella has Daddy and Papa and other relatives who do all of those things. As the students decorate and craft invitations, “Stella worked harder than everyone.” The day of the event arrives, and Stella shows up with her fathers, uncle, aunt, cousin, and Nonna. And it all turns out well. One student brings his two moms, and another child invites his grandmother since his mother is away. Debut picture-book author Schiffer creates a story featuring diverse modern families that children will recognize from their own direct experiences or from their classrooms or communities. She keeps the text closely focused on Stella’s feelings, and Clifton-Brown chooses finely detailed watercolors to illustrate Stella’s initial troubles and eventual happiness.

Essential. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1190-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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