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A new classic that will ease children through any holiday season.

Soul food and larger-than-life personalities populate the pages of this catch-all family celebration.

Beginning and ending with “a sweet potato pie just for me,” this colorful picture book modeled after “The Twelve Days of Christmas” follows a young Black child as doorbells ring and the house fills with relatives. Counting up from the first dinging doorbell to the dizzying 12th, people arrive—“two selfie queens,” “three posh sibs”—and dishes pile up (“four pounds of chitlins” and the highlight, “BAKED MACARONI AND CHEEEEEESE!”). Toddlers and aunties and fraternity brothers crowd in. As the night wears on, the view of the house expands to include a long table of food, round tables for games of spades, and a dance floor. The narrator’s disappointment when the sweet potato pie is eaten turns the repeating verses on their heads; a change in language mirrors the shift in attitude familiar to anyone who’s had enough of family for one night. Brown cleverly turns an old tune into a modern, energetic romp. Glenn’s bright art makes inspired use of perspective and a broad palette to emphasize the joys and chaos of large family gatherings. Though the book is a funny riff on a familiar Christmas song, there aren’t any Yuletide-specific references, nor does it appear to be set during winter, making this delightful and dynamic story perfect for any time of year. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A new classic that will ease children through any holiday season. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984815-17-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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