Gorgeous and vaguely inspirational, this French import is slightly tricky to read but satisfying to pore over.

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FEATHER

French artist Courgeon crafts a story about housework, boxing, and girl power in this picture book translated into English by Bedrick.

Paulina, a motherless girl from a working-class Russian-immigrant family, arm-wrestles her three loving but selfish older brothers over who has to do the chores. Nicknamed “Feather,” she usually loses, and the endless laundry cuts into her beloved piano practice. One day she takes up boxing lessons, “And the more she trained, the more she beat her brothers.” But boxing turns her fingers “red and swollen,” which also keeps her from her instrument. Her first triumph in the ring transforms her family into one with a more feminist distribution of housework, “and the melodious sounds of the piano filled their apartment once more.” The narrative moves in fits and jerks, making for a somewhat clumsy read-aloud, and the brief listing of Paulina’s feminist icons feels shoehorned in. The illustrations shine, however, with gorgeous, intricate scenes of Paulina’s home life and training, thoughtful portraits of each character, and little treats such as boxing gloves arranged in a heart. It may be a bit lackluster in the message, but on the whole it’s a beautiful and unusual tale of family and strength.

Gorgeous and vaguely inspirational, this French import is slightly tricky to read but satisfying to pore over. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59270-210-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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