This engaging, edifying, delightfully nerdy childhood retrospective from one of today’s inspirational leaders speaks volumes.


Before Stacey Abrams became today’s leading voting rights activist and the first Black woman in American history to become a gubernatorial candidate, she was a spelling bee hopeful.

Stacey is a kid who understands the power of language. Ushered from infancy into the world of books by her librarian mother, she is a devoted student of the dictionary and a diligent young linguist in her own right, squirreling away words in a dedicated notebook. Quiet and awkward, she finds refuge and clarity in reading and writing. When she is nominated by her second grade teacher, Mrs. Blakeslee, to participate in the school spelling bee, Stacey is thrilled. However there is one problem—she will be competing alongside Jake, the class bully, whom she has always shrunk from; but, “perhaps at this spelling bee she would be braver.” Readers follow Stacey as she painstakingly prepares, steps onto the competition stage—not once, but many times—and ultimately finds her voice with the loving support of her wise momma. The text is well turned, delivering both emotional resonance and compelling, albeit unromanticized, messages about the value of perseverance and the importance of speaking up for what is right. Thomas’ bold, vibrant digital illustrations use spotlights as a motif, subtly foreshadowing young Stacey’s future as a public speaker, and excel at depicting multiple scenes on the same page to create a sense of parallel action. Jake is White, and several illustrations include diverse representation.

This engaging, edifying, delightfully nerdy childhood retrospective from one of today’s inspirational leaders speaks volumes. (Picture book autobiography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-320947-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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


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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