A (mostly) playful discovery of the awesome qualities that children can notice in themselves and others.

Funny, kind, brave…this book’s message to kids is that they can be anything.

Each spread shows a child doing something they enjoy, such as making someone laugh, creating a work of art, or helping with chores. The words “You can be…” are at the top of each page in a section of solid-color border that frames the cartoon-style double-page illustration. Each image features a child embodying the adjective they accompany, which is printed in bold, all-capital black type within the illustrated frame. A white child with glasses reads in a caregiver’s lap; the text reads: “You can be…CLEVER.” A black child with a determined grin and puffy pigtails pulls a younger child in a wagon; the text reads: “You can be…STRONG.” This predictable pattern along with the emphatic lines and bold colors will appeal to toddlers and even babies. This is a great read-aloud for talking about personality, temperament, and emotions, but as only positive qualities and attributes are shared, it’s not a full exploration of the emotional-literacy spectrum. The pairing of intellectual attainment with white children who wear glasses plays into stereotypes. In a disappointing tableau, one of these children is depicted in the foreground, with tidy hair and a bow tie, listening attentively as an adult reads aloud while two other children in the background, one a child of color, display preschooler-appropriate wiggles.

A (mostly) playful discovery of the awesome qualities that children can notice in themselves and others. (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20218-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021


A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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