Both brilliant and bristling in its purpose.

A multifaceted, sometimes disheartening, yet consistently enriching primer on the unyielding necessity of those three words: Black Lives Matter.

Husband-wife duo Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson curate and contribute to this collection of varied perspectives on the mattering of Black lives and how the fact of the infamous three-word call to action has been most put into question by America’s long White supremacist history, traumatic present, and potential future. Award-winning poets such as Carole Boston Weatherford and Nikki Grimes, children’s-book authors including Kelly Starling Lyons and Ibi Zoboi, visual artists like Keith Knight and Don Tate, and historic Black American figures like Frederick Douglass and Daisy Bates provide potent responses to incidents of anti-Black violence, mis- or underrepresentation of Black identities, and personal challenges in parenting or just existing while Black. They also reflect on the movement for Black lives that activists have codified recently with #BLM but nonetheless has an extensive, hard-fought history. When, for example, kid journalist Adedayo Perkovich recounts her learning about Seneca Village, the community of mostly Black Americans that were displaced to make way for New York’s Central Park, the threads that link the 19th-century village, a coastal Ghanaian site of centuries of enslavement and commerce of Black bodies, and the contemporary reminders that Black Lives Matter are poignantly presented for readers of all ages.

Both brilliant and bristling in its purpose. (artists' notes, contributor biographies, editors' note) (Anthology. 10-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-38159-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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


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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