Practical and empowering for young ones learning how to emotionally attend to themselves and others.

I AM LOVE

A BOOK OF COMPASSION

From the I Am... series

In the latest I Am… series installment by yoga teacher Verde and illustrator Reynolds, a child describes how to share love with those struggling with hard emotions.

A thin, light-brown–skinned kid with blue and pink hair spots another child “going through a storm / of hurt and unfairness, of anger and sadness”—how should they respond? With hands on their heart, the candy-haired protagonist “find[s] the answer: I have compassion… / I am love.” The gentle narrative follows a simple formula in which different ways of attending to others are named along with a simple statement of what love can be: “Love is comfort”; “Love is effort”; “Love is tiny gestures.” Emphasizing Verde’s common themes of mindfulness and emotional presence, the main character demonstrates expressions of love ranging from keeping their own “mind and body safe and healthy” to careful listening to others. Supporting characters in this jewel-toned meditation include a white kid with long blond hair, a black child with a curly purple afropuff, and a tan-skinned youth with short black hair and a colorful taqiyah. To elaborate on the benefits of “opening and expanding” the heart (both literally and emotionally), Verde provides extensive backmatter, including yoga poses and a heart meditation. These addenda enrich the narrative and provide useful context for the relationship skills outlined in the text.

Practical and empowering for young ones learning how to emotionally attend to themselves and others. (Picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3726-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2019

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Although commendable for its inspirational bent, this story flickers rather than shines.

I AM ABLE TO SHINE

A young Japanese American girl learns to believe in herself and take pride in her cultural heritage.

Keiko sometimes feels invisible and out of place. When overlooked by adults or treated unkindly by peers, she “remains steady like a tree” thanks to her family’s love. Watari highlights Keiko’s good qualities, such as her determination, strength, and kindness. Wu’s watercolor, ink, and digital artwork shows Keiko’s accomplishments, from averting a playground fight to teaching her peers about Japanese cultural traditions (such as the Obon festival) to winning over former bullies. We see her growth and journey from a child to an empowered adult, shining as both the president of the United States and a parent of her own child. Filled to the brim with affirmations, the narrative avoids difficult emotions except for one illustration showing Keiko with a frustrated look on her face as White ballet classmates taunt her from across the room. Unfortunately, the relentless positivity rings a bit hollow, and Keiko’s experiences and development are conveyed with little nuance. Although readers may enjoy searching each spread for symbols of the author’s heritage (origami cranes and Watari’s family crest), this one-note story falls short in a growing collection of confidence-boosting picture books for children. Background characters have a range of skin tones and body types. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Although commendable for its inspirational bent, this story flickers rather than shines. (author's note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-3153-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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