Comforting and reassuring.

THE NEWBIES

There’s a new baby coming, and Luke worries about his place in the family’s changing configuration.

He loves all the special rituals with his parents. Eating pancakes on Saturdays and retelling stories of his past adventures are treasured times spent together. But now Mom is too tired, and Dad is painting the nursery. When Luke sees a pamphlet for “New Parents,” it triggers a “what if?” reverie. A bell rings, and there is an entirely new set of parents ready to devote themselves only to him. These Newbies play games, buy ice cream, tell stories, and even make pancakes, but nothing is quite right. Sandwiches are cut in squares instead of his preferred triangles, and New Dad doesn’t try to sneak some of Luke’s ice cream. They don’t get the nuances of games, and they certainly miss the mark with their version of puppy-ear pancakes. They can’t even tell stories right. He decides to stick with his real parents; he’ll even help paint the nursery. Catalanotto treats a well-explored theme with compassion and a different perspective, allowing Luke to tell his own tale, a device that captures his growing understanding and willingness to embrace the inevitable changes. Bright watercolor illustrations glow, beautifully complementing and enhancing the text with eye-catching details and expressive characterizations.

Comforting and reassuring. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1892-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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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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