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A stilted attempt to put a twist on a time-honored tradition, elevated by charming visuals.

A South Asian girl named Raashi and her little brother, Tejas, eagerly await the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan.

On this day, sisters tie bracelets called rakhis to their brothers’ and male cousins’ wrists. At breakfast, Raashi wonders why only girls tie rakhis on boys. Her mother tells her that traditionally “sisters tied rakhis on their brothers as a symbol to protect them as they went into the world. Back then, they didn’t think girls should be doing as much as boys.” Raashi doesn’t think this is fair, since she has plenty of aspirations herself, and she tells Tejas, “You should look out for me, too!” Later, at the festival, when Tejas gets stuck in a tree, Raashi comes to his rescue. A grateful Tejas wants to tie a rakhi to Raashi’s wrist, to protect her as she protected him. They decide to start a new tradition in which boys and girls can give their siblings and cousins rakhis. Though the premise—putting a gender-inclusive spin on a beloved custom—will appeal to many, the writing is often stiff and may leave readers with the misleading impression that rakhis are meant to protect boys as they venture out into the world. In fact, the bracelets traditionally symbolize boys’ willingness to safeguard their female relatives. Still, the vivid illustrations fairly explode with color and detail, creating a fun backdrop; characters are depicted with a variety of brown skin tones.

A stilted attempt to put a twist on a time-honored tradition, elevated by charming visuals. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593707265

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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