Perhaps this lullaby should have been a song or rap; it certainly has little to offer as a book

An inner-city lullaby from a black father to his son.

When the driving rain comes and the storm winds blow, this brown-skinned dad lovingly comforts his son by associating weather events with different types of music. The raging storm gets remixed into a song, the howling winds create nature’s voice, and the rushing waters play music. Like many other celebrity books, this one is didactic and preachy in its approach to addressing the child, who lacks any agency. In this rhyming poem (“radios sing in every home, / steady like the city’s metronome”), the scenes jump: from the child’s naptime to a band of multitalented black angels singing in heaven to the boy asleep in a yellow paper hat–turned-boat in a city gutter next to the fast-moving shoes of city dwellers. The artwork, which Myers composed with Kaa Illustration (the Vietnam-based team Phung Nguyen Quang and Huyn Kim Lien), looks cartoonish and far inferior to most of Myers’ other work. But it would be easy to miss who illustrated the book upon first glance. It would even be easy to miss the title; Timbaland’s name so thoroughly dominates the book’s cover that most readers will easily mistake it for the book’s name.

Perhaps this lullaby should have been a song or rap; it certainly has little to offer as a book . (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-14424-1208-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019


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


Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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