A comprehensive treasury of memories, verbal art, and play.




An ebullient collection of African-American playtime lore, traced to its sources.

Newbery Honor–winning McKissack explains how “our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices.” Most children don’t realize the educational value of songs and rhymes. The rhythms just naturally pull listeners along, encouraging participation. But in addition to their role in fostering language development and motor control, rhymes also have a history woven through them, especially for children of color. Arranging them developmentally, McKissack shares hand claps, jump-rope rhymes, circle games, songs, and stories. Unexpected treasures include “Mama Sayings” and the apropos “Jump Tale” (which has a sneaky surprise at the end). Such familiar characters as Anansi and Br’er Rabbit share space with the intriguing history of “Amazing Grace” and the coded songs from the Underground Railroad. Each entry is preceded by a note from McKissack describing a rhyme’s origin or sharing a personal anecdote from her childhood memories. Recounting sitting on the porch with family, frenzied clapping on the playground, or making “a joyful noise” in church, there is an undeniable warmth and sense of belonging to these tales. Pinkney’s watercolor-and–India ink spot illustrations swirl through the pages, bursting with energy tapped from joy and rich tradition.

A comprehensive treasury of memories, verbal art, and play. (notes, bibliography, index) (Folklore. 1-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-375-87088-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year.


From the Love Monster series

The surprised recipient of a box of chocolates agonizes over whether to eat the whole box himself or share with his friends.

Love Monster is a chocoholic, so when he discovers the box on his doorstep, his mouth waters just thinking about what might be inside; his favorite’s a double chocolate strawberry swirl. The brief thought that he should share these treats with his friends is easily rationalized away. Maybe there won’t be enough for everyone, perhaps someone will eat his favorite, or, even worse, leave him with his least favorite: the coffee one! Bright’s pacing and tone are on target throughout, her words conveying to readers exactly what the monster is thinking and feeling: “So he went into his house. And so did the box of chocolates…without a whisper of a word to anyone.” This is followed by a “queasy-squeezy” feeling akin to guilt and then by a full-tilt run to his friends, chocolates in hand, and a breathless, stream-of-consciousness confession, only to be brought up short by what’s actually in the box. And the moral is just right: “You see, sometimes it’s when you stop to think of others…that you start to find out just how much they think of you.” Monster’s wide eyes and toothy mouth convey his emotions wonderfully, and the simple backgrounds keep the focus on his struggle.

A treat to be savored—and a lesson learned—any time of year. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-00-754030-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.


On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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