Sweet if not groundbreaking—and more to the point, sadly, still needed.



A little girl with two dads confronts homophobia.

When Riley’s parents drop her off at school, she calls, “I love you, Papa and Daddy,” as she waves goodbye. This prompts a classmate named Olive to challenge her. “One mom and one dad make a baby, and that makes a family,” Olive avers. “So which one is the real dad?” Holzwarth’s informal, friendly painting shows Riley looking hurt and confused, and as the day goes on, she thinks about her “belly mommy who gave birth” to her and about how she shares qualities with both of her dads, with black hair like Daddy’s and freckles like Papa’s. (Illustrations depict Riley, Daddy, and Riley’s belly mommy as people of color with brown skin and dark, wavy hair while redheaded Papa presents white.) When she goes home, Riley’s parents notice she is upset, and she shares what happened at school. Daddy and Papa comfort her and affirm that their family constellation is just one of many diverse possibilities, and a cluster of vignettes depicts a range of configurations. “But what makes a family a family, if every family is so different?” she asks. “LOVE” is the immediate answer, underscored by an illustration of the trio in a group hug, surrounded by bright, blooming flowers.

Sweet if not groundbreaking—and more to the point, sadly, still needed. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3239-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will...


Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation.

Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. “Oy,” says Aunt Essy. “Feh,” says Aunt Chanah. “So?” says Uncle Sam. “That was all they ever said!” Despite the children’s parents’ attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children’s enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts’ and uncle’s behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors.

While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-148-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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In this moderately effective "jump" story, a lad anxiously questions a distracted-looking, green-skinned goblin as he watches it ransack his house: " 'Why have you got such a big fat bum?' 'Squishing things and squashing things . . .' 'Why have you got such a grumbly tum?' 'Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!' ” The arced lines of text are printed in dialogue balloons, and Hess views the domestic destruction from canted or rolling perspectives in which food, garbage, shampoo, and small toys fly as the goblin shambles along in a cloud of spattered paint or ink. At last the interloper winds up in the lad's bedroom: " ‘What have you come for?' 'YOU!' ” But, as lifting the concluding gatefold reveals, the goblin will accept a jelly bean instead. "A Dark, Dark Room" it's not, but read aloud with the proper gusto it should elicit a few belly laughs, as well as a mild climactic jolt, and the art is unusually fascinating. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56145-214-6

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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