Sophie’s negativity is a definite turnoff, though Steven and his problem-solving are delightful.

SOPHIE'S SQUASH GO TO SCHOOL

From the Sophie's Squash series

A little girl’s friendship with the two squash she grew in her garden (Bernice’s twin babies from Sophie’s Squash, 2013) gets in the way of a friendship with a real child when Sophie starts school.

Steven Green, a black boy, won’t leave Sophie, a white girl, alone. He sits by her, follows her, and makes all kinds of overtures of friendship. But she rebuffs him, stating that gourds Bonnie and Baxter are all the friends she needs. But readers will catch on pretty quickly that though Sophie seems like one huge bad attitude, with her scowly face, upturned nose, and snootiness, she is beginning to see the value of human friends—she just doesn’t know quite how to reach out to them. But “friends” doesn’t include Steven, especially after she has to put her squash in their winter bed and Steven accidentally tears Sophie’s picture of them. But then Marvin, Steven’s stuffed frog, and Sophie’s parents help the stubborn girl learn that “sometimes growing a friend just takes time.” Wilsdorf’s illustrations, done in watercolor and China ink, provide few clues to the question Miller generates in the text: why in the world is an upbeat and happy kid like Steven so intent on being friends with such a contrary girl? Roshni, seemingly South Asian, and Steven are the only two children of color in the class, and Ms. Park, their teacher, is black.

Sophie’s negativity is a definite turnoff, though Steven and his problem-solving are delightful. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-50944-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture...

HAPPY DREAMER

Displaying his distinctive voice and images, Reynolds celebrates the joys and challenges of being a creative spirit.

“I am a HAPPY DREAMER,” cheers a thin, spiky-haired white boy as he flies skyward, streaming yellow swirls of sparkles. This little “dreamer maximus” piles on the energy with colors and noise and the joy-filled exuberance he has for life. “Wish you could HEAR inside my head / TRUMPETY, ZIGZAG JAZZ!” With clear honesty, he shares that the world tells him to be quiet, to focus and pay attention. Like a roller-coaster ride, Reynolds’ text and illustrations capture the energetic side of creativity and the gloom of cleaning up the messes that come with it while providing a wide vocabulary to describe emotional brilliance and resilience. The protagonist makes no apologies for expressing his feelings and embracing his distinct view of the world. This makes him happy. The book finishes with a question to readers: “What kind of dreamer are you?” Hinging outward, the double-page spread opens to four panels, each with a dozen examples of multiracial children being happy and being dreamers, showing inspiring possibilities for exploration. The best way, of course, is to “just BE YOU.”

A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86501-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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