Conveying communal wisdom and collective hope, this volume honors reading and knowledge as staples for a proverbial lifeboat.

A familiar flood myth retold as a contemporary allegory.

Upon waking from her dream of an impending deluge, an old woman resolves to preserve life’s “promises” and ferry them to safety. She first repairs her roof, then gathers complementary “pairs” of promises based on relative polarity: fast/slow, young/old. When read aloud, the lyrical resonance suggests spectrums of interpretive potential within each rhyming couplet: Imagine what other enduring promises might exist in between “tall ones that could reach the tops of trees” and “short ones that could balance on your knees.” Equally intriguing are the verbal and visual metaphoric suggestions; might the “slowly… slowly…” rising river reference environmental phenomena and climate change? Or perhaps it alludes to shifting cultural tides that threaten the gradual erosion of memory, thereby resulting in passive acceptance of the status quo (remember the frog who does not notice itself being boiled alive)? The concertina binding, with two long, neatly folded tableaux (one on either side of the connected leaves) rather than individual double-page spreads, reinforces thematic flow, both facilitating fluid page turns and inviting dynamic or meditative interactions with the narrative. Textured abstractions—some splotchy, others splintered or spliced—represent the unrelenting downpour and submerged landscapes, while sporadic raindrops simultaneously outline the eyes of creatures large and small, evoking Noah’s Ark. Thanks to its keeper, this sturdy houseboat-cum-temple holds its own amid turbulence and uncertainty, sheltering the bookish promises cradled within.

Conveying communal wisdom and collective hope, this volume honors reading and knowledge as staples for a proverbial lifeboat. (author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Picture book/novelty. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51387-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Questioneers series

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out.

Teachers influence children profoundly.

From earliest childhood, Lila Greer, the youngest of five in a single-dad household, has been a worrier. Then the family moves. Entering second grade feels overwhelming: Nothing’s familiar, and she has no friends. But Ms. Kern, Lila’s new teacher, invites Lila to erase the chalkboard at recess and to articulate her fears. It helps that someone listens. Soon, classmates get into the act, and lonely Lila makes friends, emerges from her shell, and learns that “what ifs” have positive sides. Lila grows up, still fretting sometimes, and then becomes a new teacher who worries upon meeting her own students. But then she remembers the teacher who helped her overcome her fears and doubts years earlier. What was that marvelous, ineffable quality Ms. Kern possessed? Then Lila remembers: It was kindness! Harnessing that memory, Lila now welcomes her own “smiling young faces.” This is a sweet story that emphasizes good cheer, helpfulness, and the importance of feeling welcome and heard, no matter who you are: terrific messages, expressed in bouncy verses that scan well. The illustrations are colorfully lively. Readers will appreciate occasional displays of humorous and quirky typesetting creativity and will admire Lila’s poufy topknot, which resembles a huge ball of yarn. Lila is light-skinned, Ms. Kern is tan-skinned, and other characters are diverse.

A much-needed reminder that kindness will always win out. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781419769047

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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