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WHY AM I HERE?

Solid rhymes and diverse representation freshen a familiar theme.

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A pair of children imagine the possibilities of their futures in this inclusive picture book.

When a girl with brown skin and brown curls questions her purpose in life, she says, “Sometimes I sit and I think about me. / I let my imagination go wild, go free!” As the girl imagines her future, she thinks of colorful prospects, distant places, and jobs she might have. But she knows she’s not the only one with a purpose: Everyone, she says, has a future path to dream into being despite any obstacles. Dunsen-White’s strong rhyme scheme carries the book through familiar waters, lingering only briefly on possible careers and focusing more on the journey toward the future. Although the book isn’t explicitly faith-based, a few notes indicate the girl’s belief not only in herself, but in something larger than her; this reference makes it easy to adapt the text to suit the needs of spiritually inclined readers. Illustrator Rizzo’s whimsical cartoon images highlight the colorful imagination of the point-of-view character, and inclusive rhymes, such as “Although I am probably different from you, / You have a purpose, deep down inside too” are surrounded by illustrations of children of various abilities and skin tones. The final pages encourage further discussion with family members.

Solid rhymes and diverse representation freshen a familiar theme.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-955154-08-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2022

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FAMILIES BELONG

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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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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