A treacly take on the forbidden-garden narrative.

SYLVIA FINDS A WAY

A slug saves the day for some hungry friends.

Sylvia, a small slug who likes to practice yoga and consider “the promise of a new day,” eyes the lush flower and vegetable garden that a bespectacled, olive-skinned, dark-haired child and adult tend. When Sylvia’s friends—Deer, Rabbit, and Crow—invade the garden and try to steal some of its bounty, the humans shoo them away and install a scarecrow and a sign: “KEEP OUT!” Sylvia determines to help her friends gain access. Despite her friends’ skepticism (she can’t leap, dart, or fly, after all), Sylvia slips under the garden fence and, using her best yoga moves, writes a cursive “PLEASE” in the dirt, which inspires in the humans an act of beneficence: They place carrots, peas, and corn outside the garden fence for the creatures to eat (along with a new sign that reads, “Welcome Everyone”). Illustrations depict Sylvia as spotted with two large cartoon eyes atop her antennae. Following the story is an author’s note that includes facts about slugs. But any child wanting to learn more about slugs would do well to find an informational book instead of one that anthropomorphizes them—and that imparts such an earnest and somewhat overbearing message (one that altogether skirts the food chain) about kindness. Yoga fans may get a kick out of a slug mastering a locust pose, but otherwise the story lacks luster.

A treacly take on the forbidden-garden narrative. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-51328-949-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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