Special and splendid.

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SATURDAY

Caldecott Honoree Mora (Thank You, Omu!, 2018) returns in this sophomore offering about a mother and daughter’s special Saturday.

Young protagonist Ava and her mother love their Saturdays together. Ava’s mother works, “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday,” so Saturday is their special day. The pairs’ smiles and Ava’s outflung hands convey excitement, while realistic details such as Ava’s mother’s sleep scarf add authenticity. In vignettes, Mora’s collage art chronicles some of their past adventures and shows them performing various actions in a circle of repeated figures (clearly intended to convey the passage of time), preparing for their day. Discerning readers may spy something left behind as they head out. Things start to go awry almost immediately, but Ava’s mother is full of reassurances, and they have a strategy for dealing with disappointment: pause, close their eyes, breathe deep, and move on. But after the biggest disappointment comes at the end of a daylong string of them, it’s Ava who brings comfort to her mother in a touching moment that may bring tears to readers’ eyes. Though not a preachy book, it offers lessons that are both beautiful and useful. Ava and her mother are black, with skin of different hues of browns, while other characters are an array of skin tones. How wonderful: a book with both racial diversity and class diversity that feels authentic.

Special and splendid. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43127-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here.

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THE COUCH POTATO

Can a couch potato peel themself off their beloved, comfortable couch?

John and Oswald’s titular spud certainly finds it very hard to do so. Why should they leave their “comfy, cozy couch” when everything that’s needed is within reach? Their doodads and gadgets to amuse and entertain, their couch’s extendable gloved hands to grab food from the kitchen, and screens upon screens to watch their favorite TV shows (highlights: MadYam, Fries), play their favorite video games, and livestream their friends. Where’s the need to leave the living room? Then…“PEW-WWWWWWW”! The electricity goes out one day. Left without screens and gizmos, the couch potato decides to take dog Tater “for a walk…outside,” where the trees and birds and skies seem rich, “like a high-resolution 156-inch curved screen, but even more realistic.” The outdoor experience proves cathartic and freeing, away from those cords that bind, liberating enough to commit this couch potato to spending more time off the couch. Similar to The Bad Seed (2017), The Good Egg (2019), and The Cool Bean (2019) in small-scale scope and moral learning, this latest guidebook to life retains John’s attention to textual goodness, balancing good-humored laughs with a sincere conversational tone that immediately pulls readers in. Naturally, Oswald’s succinct artwork—loaded with genial spuds, metatextual nods, and cool aloofness—continues this loose series’ winsome spirit. No counterarguments here, couch potatoes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 65.9% of actual size.)

Looking for a spud-tacular read? Starch here. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295453-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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