With its big-name author, this book is a Grand Slam.

Decorated tennis champ Osaka serves a lesson on sportsmanship.

A young Black narrator stretches to greet the morning—the protagonist is preparing for a day at Play Academy, an actual institution founded by Osaka to help keep girls playing sports as they grow. The child quickly joins a group of friends—diverse in terms of race and ability—as they practice and play. From the tennis court to the polo pitch, their concentration and determination are fierce. Whether playing soccer, football, or basketball or swimming, these young athletes practice, play fair, and support one another even in the face of failure. The strength and composure of the gymnast, a Black child with Bantu knots, shows how hard work pays off. The narrator quickly reminds readers that after practice, a cool-down is required. The whole group breaks to practice yoga, and before heading home to rest, the narrator reminds readers of the qualities that make a true champion—honesty, patience, and perseverance. The playfully rhyming text matches the pace of the illustrations, bursting with energy as the athletes race along the track and exuding peaceful calm while they pause to meditate. The oft-repeated “We are champs, and we play all day!” is delivered at infrequent intervals, so it doesn’t have the ideal cheer-chant vibe that would have worked even more effectively. Still, Nair’s adorable illustrations shine, and overall, the packaging for the message is as sweet as the underlying sentiment. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

With its big-name author, this book is a Grand Slam. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-328368-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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