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Totally genuine and fills a gap by showcasing positive outcomes in blended families.

Perhaps stepmothers aren’t as cruel as folklore has led us to believe.

When a child learns that their family is getting a new stepmother, they are skeptical. After all, Cinderella, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel all had stepmothers who were “TOTALLY wicked” and “B-A-D.” Surely the new stepmother, Holly, will be assigning arduous chores. But instead, she helps renovate the protagonist’s bedroom, painting the ceiling blue to resemble the sky. And while fairy-tale stepmothers abandon their kids in the woods, Holly saves the day when the family is lost on a hiking trip. Though the child isn’t entirely convinced of Holly’s benevolence, the new stepmother continues to score points through gestures of affection, like putting notes in lunches, saving school artwork, and offering support after the protagonist sustains an injury. As the protagonist’s trust in their stepmother grows, they try out new names for her, such as Stepster and Steppypants, before settling on Holly. Layouts alternate between full-page spreads and vignettes, creating plenty of visual movement along with bright and welcoming colors. This is a simple lesson, shared humorously and earnestly, about how fears and pre-judgments can shift with experience. Holly, the narrator, and the rest of the family are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Totally genuine and fills a gap by showcasing positive outcomes in blended families. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304336-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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