Charming, funny and appealing.

NO BATHS AT CAMP

Max insists that he never took a bath the entire time he was at summer camp.

When Mom announces bathtime, Max gives her a complete account of all his adventures, with lots of grimy details, from Sunday to Saturday of each week. There’s rock climbing, theatrics, marshmallow roasting, canoeing and swimming, painting and barefoot dancing. This particular camp focuses on Jewish traditions. They perform scenes from the Old Testament, dance the hora, and on Friday night observe Shabbat, lighting the candles, saying the blessings and eating a special meal. Saturday is spent quietly with walks, stories and conversations until sundown, when they say goodbye to the sweetness of the Sabbath. Max narrates his story in simple descriptive language and syntax, joyfully emphasizing that there were no baths on the schedule. Vasquez’s double-paged, bright, textured illustrations clue readers into Max’s misleading assertions. He may not have taken baths, but there he is washing at the water pump, splashing in the spray from the hose, having a jolly water-balloon fight and happily taking a shower and shampoo before sundown on Shabbat. Of course Max takes his bath, albeit reluctantly, obliging his Mom. Fox maintains a light, nonpreachy touch, weaving details of children’s participation in Jewish traditions with the universal fun of summer camp.

Charming, funny and appealing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8120-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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An uplifting, rhyming picture book offering food for the soul.

A SPOONFUL OF FAITH

A mother teaches her daughter a special recipe to help feed her faith.

Layla, a young, brown-skinned girl, is ready yet nervous for her first day of school. Seeking a confidence boost, she goes in search of her mom—“’Cause mamas can help / when you need love and calm”—and finds her in the kitchen. “Hey, sweetie, sit here / Let’s make a quick meal / that’s full of good things / to help how you feel,” her mother suggests and fishes out a recipe book. The recipe for the meal includes many ingredients, but none of them are tangible. Instead, courage, “a spoonful of faith,” “dashes of kindness,” “handfuls of hope,” “pinches of prayers,” and warm hugs go into the mixing bowl. To concretize these virtues, the artwork uses a visual motif of hearts and flowers. Once the meal is ready, Layla hesitantly looks into the bowl, unsure what to make of the imaginary repast, but a word of wisdom from Mama helps her realize the true source of her emotional sustenance and strength. The illustrations, created using digital watercolor, pencil, and gouache brushes in Procreate, are soothing, with soft pastel colors. While God is mentioned, there are no references to any specific religion.

An uplifting, rhyming picture book offering food for the soul. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-301781-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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