JUST RIGHT FAMILY

AN ADOPTION STORY

A book to broaden collections about families.

Meili thinks her multiracial, adoptive family is just right as it is, and she doesn’t want her parents to adopt a new baby sister.

Meili’s parents—Mama, who appears white with light skin and blonde hair, and Papa, depicted as a man of color with medium-brown skin and curly dark hair—adopted her from China. She’s secure in their love and likes to hear them tell her, “We looked in our hearts and saw you there,” when they share her adoption story. But when they tell her they’ve seen another baby girl in their hearts and they need to go to Haiti to adopt her, Meili is distressed. Her parents involve her in preparations for the baby, and her teacher (who has light-brown skin) offers encouragement, too. But it’s Meili’s grandmother, depicted as a white woman, who provides the most comfort while caring for Meili when her parents travel to Haiti. When they return with baby Sophie (who has dark-brown skin and curly, short-cropped, dark hair) Meili welcomes her as a sister. She tells her what they’ll do together, naming activities she’d previously enjoyed alone with her parents. Although there’s sadly no mention of birth families in this story (only vague references to the girls’ “need[ing] new homes”) the affirming vision of adoptive sibling bonding is welcome.

A book to broaden collections about families. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8075-4082-4

Page Count: 37

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

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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