Proving size does not matter, this itty-bitty witch casts a bewitching spell.

THE ITTY-BITTY WITCH

Big dreams come in itty-bitty packages.

Betty is excited for her “first day as a first-grade witch.” Black-haired with a light brown complexion and small in stature, Betty is teased by classmates Abby and Sam (both white) for still using a “kinder-broom,” and they nickname her “Itty Bitty.” “My name is Betty,” she protests. When the class learns about the annual broom-riding race, or Halloween Dash, for the whole first grade, Betty decides she must win, thinking the name-calling will cease if she does. “SWOOSH! WHOOSH! / UH-OH!” Despite testing such flying strategies as a running start and nose-dives during practice, Betty fails, feeling “itty-bitty inside.” Undeterred, Betty maps out her race course and strategizes for the big day. Shaskan utilizes onomatopoeia and smartly placed rhymes to narrate Betty’s emotional journey as she battles her own self-doubts. Yan brings as much action and pop to the tale with her warm-toned digital renderings of Betty’s diverse classmates and teacher. All characters are portrayed with round heads and cartoonish, large eyes, and streaks of glittering bright colors trail behind their brooms. It is when Betty finally realizes that her perceived shortcomings are actually an advantage that she wins the acceptance of her peers—and, more importantly, herself. Caregivers and teachers will be pleased with the multiple extensions the story offers, all wrapped up in a Halloween theme.

Proving size does not matter, this itty-bitty witch casts a bewitching spell. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4123-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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