Straightforward, gentle, useful, and engaging.

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MAYBE DYING IS LIKE BECOMING A BUTTERFLY

A young child and grandfather have a conversation about death.

When Grandpa suggests that a caterpillar might die if Christopher puts it in a jar, Christopher asks some questions about death, beginning with “Are you going to die, Grandpa?” The response: “Someday, sweetheart. But I hope not too soon.” The pair, both white, with big heads and small bodies in the cartoonlike illustrations, are walking and playing together in a park. Grandpa is stooped and walks with a cane; Christopher wears yellow boots. Their simple exchange covers a lot of philosophical ground. Grandpa acknowledges no one knows when they will die and that Christopher could die before him, but that the chance is small. Grandpa allows that “no one really knows” what happens after death, but he tells Christopher that some people think of heaven (“a place without sadness or war”), others of rebirth (“each time, you get wiser”), and others of “nothing” (“the same as before you were born”). The pair discusses the whys of death (“dying is part of life”), birth (“to learn all sorts of things”), and feelings of fear or comfort about dying. A concluding letter from Christopher to Grandpa, accompanied by an illustration of Christopher alone, offers the titular analogy about becoming a butterfly. Backmatter offers a brief comment and tips for discussion from a grief therapist.

Straightforward, gentle, useful, and engaging. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60537-494-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.”

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I AM EVERY GOOD THING

A much-needed book for Black children when society demonstrates otherwise.

The Kirkus Prize–, Coretta Scott King Honor–, Newbery Honor–, and Caldecott Honor–winning team behind Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (2017) return for another celebration of Black excellence. In a text brimming with imagination and Black-boy joy, Barnes lays the foundation for young Black readers to go forth into the world filled with confidence and self-assurance: “I am brave. I am hope. / I am my ancestors’ wildest dream. / I am worthy of success, / of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.” Simultaneously, he opens a window for non-Black readers to see Black boys’ humanity. They have dreams, feel pain, are polite and respectful—the list of qualities goes on. Barnes also decides to address what is waiting for them as they experience the world. “I am not what they might call me.” With this forceful statement, he provides a tool for building Black resilience, reassuring young Black readers that they are not those names. James supplies his customarily painterly art, his brushy oils painting Black boys of every shade of brown playing, celebrating, achieving, aspiring, and loving. Through every stroke readers will see that Black boys are “worthy / to be loved.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51877-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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