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A poignant illustration of how our roots keep us grounded amid change.

When an Ojibwe family moves, they bring a beloved spruce sapling with them.

As Francis grows up, so does Gaawaandagoonce (an Ojibwemowin word meaning "little spruce tree"). The sapling—gendered female in the text—is planted in the center of Grandma’s garden when Francis is just a baby. Both tree and child put down roots on the shore of Gichigamiing, or Lake Superior, building their connection to each other and to the land. Francis’ grandparents are slowing down in their old age, and it’s now time for Grandma, Grandpa, and Francis to leave their beloved home. They decide to bring Gaawaandagoonce with them. Grandpa and Francis gently dig up the tree, disentangle her roots from those of the trees surrounding her, and wrap the well-watered transplant in a blanket. Together, the family and Gaawaandagoonce replant in a new place. “At first, change is hard on trees—and on people too.” Drouillard, a Grand Portage band of Ojibwe descendant, and Gardiner, a member of the Chaubunagungamaug band of Nipmuck Indians, expertly weave together Francis and Gawaandagoonce’s grief and growth, conveying the heartbreak and resilience that often accompany transition while honoring Ojibwe values and language. Rendered in gouache and colored pencil images, Gardiner’s artwork relies on a subdued palette and spare compositions, evoking feelings of tenderness and emphasizing the importance of connection and having space to adapt.

A poignant illustration of how our roots keep us grounded amid change. (author’s note, information on white spruce trees, Ojibwemowin glossary) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780063242463

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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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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From the J.D. the Kid Barber series , Vol. 2

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D.

Breakout kid barber J.D. embraces a summer of opportunity.

Readers met J.D. Jones just as he took his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, by storm, winning himself community acclaim and a chair at the revered Hart and Sons barbershop in series opener J.D. and the Great Barber Battle(2021). What’s next for the haircut prodigy? School’s just getting out, and there’s so much life happening outside—if only one can escape home learning with the grandparents. J.D.’s sister, Vanessa, brings along multitalented mutual friend Jessyka to share an ambitious challenge: “Let’s start a YouTube channel!” Can they get millions of views and wow the whole world? They are already amazing at haircuts and hairstyles—all they need is to learn how to make a great YouTube video. The story models strategies for scripting short videos reflecting the templates of viral YouTube hair tutorials, inviting readers to not only see the journey of the characters, but maybe also practice these skills at home. This book is bound to educate all about some of the most storied and cherished traditions within the Black community. Bringing in Vanessa is a great touch to extend the series across gender, and hopefully she’ll get a chance to lead her own adventures. This book blends skill-building, entrepreneurship, and strong family values to give young Black children visions of what’s possible when they follow their passions and embrace their community.

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11155-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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