An exuberantly illustrated tribute to the powwow tradition of waci.

A Native mother and child experience the thrill of a powwow.

“On the morning of a hot summer day, / you heard the powwow drums over the hill.” The parent and child journey until they reach the site of the powwow. The mother unwraps the child from a cradle board, and the two participate in the sacred community ceremony. Infused with Indigenous joy, the narrative combines stylized text told from the perspective of the mother addressing her child, Lakota words, and vivid images. Cultural touchstones, including ribbon skirts and beaded hapans (moccasins), are lovingly depicted in Dorion’s swirling, boldly colored art. When the child dons powwow regalia, the mother exclaims, “Lila wašté!” (Lakota for “very good/very proud,” according to a helpful glossary). Relatively spare narration allows young readers to follow the fanciful images and repeating onomatopoeia as this Native family begins to waci—dancing and celebrating life “for our loved ones and relatives.” Though this emotive tale will resonate most with children familiar with the atmosphere of a powwow, young people of all backgrounds will appreciate it. In an author’s note, Speidel (Lakota/Cree) calls the story “a celebration of my Lakota culture,” while in an illustrator’s note, Dorion says that she “combined Lakota patterns…with design elements from my own Métis culture.”

An exuberantly illustrated tribute to the powwow tradition of waci. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2024

ISBN: 9780889957275

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022



A parent and child introduce a way to make daily separations a bit easier.

At school drop-off, a parent rabbit comforts a sad child and hands the little one a heart-shaped object: “I’m giving you my heart to hold / whenever I’m not there.” The heart is meant to remind the child of the parent’s love, celebrate the things the child does well, calm worries, express joy, and watch over the child through the night. The book fails to spell out just how the heart does anything other than serve as a reminder of parental love, however. For instance, “Wave the heart above your head / to sing a happy song.” What’s the connection there? The heart is always in the child’s possession, even when the little bunny is with the parent, contradicting the opening premise that it’s for when the two are apart. Most troublingly, unlike a kissing hand, the wooden keepsake heart that comes with the book could easily be lost; with the statements that it’s the parent’s heart and that the love in the heart will never end, losing the token could be quite upsetting. The artwork features adorable cartoon anthropomorphic animals of various species, two of which use wheelchairs. The font sometimes fills in the centers of the lowercase g, o, a, and letters with hearts, which may cause difficulties for youngsters reading on their own or for those with dyslexia.

Lackluster. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781680102970

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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