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MAKING HAPPY

A beautifully rendered story about courage in the face of turmoil.

All Leila wants is for her family to go back to normal.

But Mama’s wigs and scarves are as present as the sickness that surrounds her. Worse, nothing Leila does seems to make it go away, kind of like the sadness and anxiety that sit like an ache in her stomach. But Dad has an idea “to make some happy”—by making a big mess and dancing around the room—and Leila finds new ways of dealing with her jumbled-up feelings. Exploring the complexities that children grapple with when faced with illness in the family, this picture book is ultimately about finding little pockets of happiness. The book could help create a space to talk about illness with children while offering hope in the form of togetherness and empathy. Although the metaphors in the book feel unwieldy at times, the art more than compensates for it. Patterns twist and turn alongside Leila’s feelings, weaving a stunning tapestry that finally blossoms onto the pages as Leila finds small moments of joy and understanding amid sadness. The use of color provides subtle cues to the transformation that Leila undergoes. In an author’s note, Sheth states that she wrote the book while going through chemotherapy; in an illustrator’s note, Le explains that with each book, she works digitally with traditional media and photography and attempts to “use fabrics related to the author’s heritage.” Leila and her family are brown-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully rendered story about courage in the face of turmoil. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64686-622-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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