It feels fresh at the start, but it fizzles out.

READ REVIEW

THE LITTLE BOOK OF BIG WHAT-IFS

An unseen narrator suggests a wide range of what-ifs, each playing out in a single scene among a group of animals.

Liwska’s animal group includes bears, mice, elephants, and more, but because they’re all drawn in the same range of browns and grays, with similar curved pencil hatchings for fur/skin, and closer to the same size than realism would dictate, they feel like a tightknit community. When one is depicted calling out a window to oblivious figures who are all wearing earbuds, the text—“What if no one could hear you?”—is truly upsetting. Some of the what-ifs pair as unsettling opposites: Across from “What if no one could hear you?” sits “What if everyone could?” as the same character vainly trying to attract attention before is now seen snoring in public. Many hypotheticals are tenderly humorous. “What if there was only one kind?”—and all tea was banana-flavored? What if a seed doesn’t grow—or does, but a bespectacled burrowing animal snaps off the carrot underground and eats it? Soft pencil drawings in a muted palette bring comfort to moments of concern. However, there’s an unexpected prescriptive turn. Moving from musings on vulnerability to ponderings such as “What if we all work together?” and “What if everyone shared?” the text shifts into banal hypotheticals that even the youngest readers will recognize as instructions. Nothing wrong with activism, but this is a bait-and-switch.

It feels fresh at the start, but it fizzles out. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-76701-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more