Celebrates shining bright even when others want us to dim our light.

BRAVO ANJALI!

Anjali is the star of her tabla lessons, but not everyone supports her success.

Her friend Deepak, for example, makes fun of her and talks about her behind her back. It doesn’t help that many people assume that the Indian drumset is just for boys. Anjali tries to cope by confronting Deepak—unsuccessfully—and by pretending that she doesn’t know tabla as well as she actually does. Caught between her friendship and her talent, Anjali is so riddled with frustration that she must leave class in the middle of the day to go to the bathroom. While there, she meets a fifth grader named Tina who tells Anjali, “Never dim your light, girl.” Heeding the older student’s words, Anjali decides to embrace her talent and to celebrate her hard work, and by the end of the story, Anjali is shining bright. Soto’s cheery illustrations depict Anjali’s diverse elementary school and her love of music with equal flair. The book’s message, which feels aimed at young women of color, is both relevant and essential. Laudably, the author does not sugarcoat the consequences of being young, female, South Asian, and unafraid even as she gives Anjali strong support in both her parents and tabla teacher. At times, the text can be forced or stilted, but overall the book is inspiring without being preachy, all while delivering an essential message. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Celebrates shining bright even when others want us to dim our light. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73705-501-3

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Mango and Marigold Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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