This story about thinking for oneself is sweetly quirky and far from saccharine.

FREDA AND THE BLUE BEETLE

Thanks to an oversized, mute blue beetle, a girl gets a lesson in the importance of following her own advice.

Freda is fed—and ignores—a series of dire warnings from the townsfolk in her small community. She enjoys exploring outdoors, knowing that avoiding their dogmatic advice leads to “wonderful discoveries.” She befriends a broken-winged beetle, giving it food, companionship, and a name. Ernest heals, grows in size and strength, and assists in the fields. When the townsfolk tire of his need for sustenance and wrongly accuse him of a crime, Freda sadly escorts Ernest out of town. Gilmore takes the townsfolk’s paranoia to an extreme (if you swim there, carp will eat you, they declare) to accentuate her point about the value of heeding one’s own instincts. Freda, feeling shame for having bowed to ridiculous demands, remembers that sometimes we should “listen to ourselves.” Gilmore’s palette is a muted, earth-toned one save for the bright cobalt blue of Ernest. Freda is an olive-skinned girl, and the townsfolk are primarily white with some diversity included—a couple of dark-skinned people, a woman who could be Asian, and a man in a turban. In the end, not only does Freda remember to follow her heart, but Ernest also saves the day in this oddball tale. (Insects that grow larger than humans, anyone?)

This story about thinking for oneself is sweetly quirky and far from saccharine. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77147-381-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way.

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SULWE

With the help of a legend about Day and Night, a dark-skinned black child learns that she is beautiful inside and out.

Sulwe is “the color of midnight,” the darkest in her multihued family, and is teased in school. She tries everything to lighten her skin: an eraser, makeup, eating light foods, prayer. Her mother tells her she is beautiful and that her name, Sulwe, or “star,” refers to an inner brightness, but she can’t see it in herself. Then a shooting star comes to her window, sent by the night, and brings Sulwe out to tell her about Night and Day, two sisters who loved each other but were treated differently. When Night left after people called her names like “scary,” “bad,” and “ugly,” the people realized that they needed her. The stars added that “some light can only be seen in the dark.” After learning how Night and Day are both needed, Sulwe knows that she is “dark and beautiful, bright and strong.” Harrison’s glossy illustrations faithfully render the features of black people, allowing the beauty of different skin tones to shine, with deep purple tones in the darkness, reinforcing the story’s message. In an author’s note, Nyong’o shares her own past struggles with her complexion.

A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2536-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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