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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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