Wells has illustrated excerpts from well-known songs from Oklahoma, The King and I, Carousel, and South Pacific. In the thick and vibrant colors and large, square format, readers will recognize from My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), her bunnies, guinea pigs, and bison cavort, cuddle, and dance across the pages to Hammerstein’s lyrics. A songbook in a back pocket provides Rodgers’s music (a single line of melody, for vocals). Usually the selection is a single verse, and works perfectly for songs like “Oh! What a Beautiful Morning,” “Oklahoma,” and “Shall We Dance.” However, in too many others, the magic of the music is destroyed in the alteration. “I Whistle a Happy Tune” has lost an entire line, ruining its symmetry. Extremely short versions of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening” are confusingly abrupt. And tragically, the last segment of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” rushes to its conclusion: the magically thrice repeated “Don’t you wish’t you’d go on ferever” is written only once on the page. The result is a tune that simply doesn’t work—how does one sing that? Supposedly, these were very deliberate design decisions, and in all other aspects, this is a lovely book—Wells’s warm lines match the mood of the songs perfectly. Families who know these songs might enjoy singing with this as long as they can deal with the missing lyrics. Those unfamiliar with the songs will find the flaws jolting and unsatisfactory. The songbook in the back pocket and serious flaws make this a questionable purchase for libraries. (Nonfiction. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-027925-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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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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Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents.


After swinging out from the jungle after a long day of ninja-ing, Will makes his way home just in time for a bath. But as all ninjas know, danger lurks around every corner.

Even naughty ninjas get hungry, but Dad says, “Pee-yew,” and insists his little ninja get clean before going near a morsel. Ever the Naughty Ninja, Will follows his dad into the bathroom and immediately spies danger: Poisonous flies that have followed him from the jungle! As any parent would, his dad begs him not to say, “Ninja to the rescue,” because we all know what comes after a catchphrase…chaos! Through each increasingly rough rescue, Dad finds himself more and more defeated in his quest to complete bathtime, but ultimately he starts to find the infectious joy that only the ridiculousness of children can bring out in an adult. The art is bright and finds some nifty ninja perspectives that use the space well. It also places an interracial family at its center: Dad has brown skin and dark, puffy hair, and Mom is a white redhead; when out of his ninja cowl, Will looks like a slightly lighter-skinned version of his father. Kids will laugh at everything the dad is put through, and parents will knowingly nod, because we have all had nights with little ninjas soaking the bathroom floor. The book starts out a little text heavy but finds its groove quickly, reading smoothly going forward. Lots of action means it’s best not to save this one for bedtime.

Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9433-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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