Nobly intentioned, certainly misguided. (Picture book. 4-8)

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FAR FROM HOME

A STORY OF LOSS, REFUGE, AND HOPE

Forced to leave home, a young boy finds comfort in a story of Jesus Christ.

An unnamed boy living in an unnamed desert village in Syria is rudely awoken one night when his parents tell him that their country is no longer safe, that they must flee. The boy hates both the thought of leaving and the reality of waiting to arrive at a destination, and his frustrations boil over in a tearful outburst. An old woman in a refugee camp tells him one of her “favorite stories”: that of the infant Jesus Christ and his flight to Egypt. Using the words of the boy’s own flight, she hearteningly points out that despite the successes of Jesus’ ministry, “he never forgot what it was like—the leaving and the waiting and the different.” Notably, the old woman never names Jesus in the story; readers, however, will likely infer his identity through the illustrations. All characters are dark-haired and olive-skinned; the family and other refugees are cued as Muslim, with the women and girls wearing hijab in public. The old woman, dressed in peasant clothing evocative of Turkey or the Caucasus, also appears in hijab—a disconcerting contradiction to her evident belief in aspects of Jesus’ story not subscribed to in Islam. This contradiction is never addressed in the text; indeed, the text never addresses much at all, delivering a warm but bland tale of faiths coming together. The resolution fails to delve deeply into the struggle of adjustment, further undermining the story’s emotional impact.

Nobly intentioned, certainly misguided. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4964-3673-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tyndale House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.”

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I AM EVERY GOOD THING

A much-needed book for Black children when society demonstrates otherwise.

The Kirkus Prize–, Coretta Scott King Honor–, Newbery Honor–, and Caldecott Honor–winning team behind Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (2017) return for another celebration of Black excellence. In a text brimming with imagination and Black-boy joy, Barnes lays the foundation for young Black readers to go forth into the world filled with confidence and self-assurance: “I am brave. I am hope. / I am my ancestors’ wildest dream. / I am worthy of success, / of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.” Simultaneously, he opens a window for non-Black readers to see Black boys’ humanity. They have dreams, feel pain, are polite and respectful—the list of qualities goes on. Barnes also decides to address what is waiting for them as they experience the world. “I am not what they might call me.” With this forceful statement, he provides a tool for building Black resilience, reassuring young Black readers that they are not those names. James supplies his customarily painterly art, his brushy oils painting Black boys of every shade of brown playing, celebrating, achieving, aspiring, and loving. Through every stroke readers will see that Black boys are “worthy / to be loved.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

The title says it all: Black boys are “every good thing.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51877-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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