COUNTDOWN TO KINDERGARTEN

McGhee debuts for children with a very funny story about a girl who tries desperately to cope with not knowing how to tie her shoes. She’s been told that this is a requirement for kindergartners, but she just can’t get the knack. So she tries to rid herself of the problem: ditching her shoes in a haystack (her mother finds them, “Looky here—the missing shoes and that needle I’ve been searching for!”), trying to feed them to the cat, and deploying one as a bath toy. But they are always returned to her. Despite her parents reassurance that many five-year-olds can’t do this either, all she can picture is a phalanx of teachers droning: “Once again: You can’t ask us for help. Ever. Never.” If she tries to run a scam with laceless shoes, she knows she’ll pay the piper—“I’m sorry,” she imagines her teacher saying, “Baby shoe-wearers have to take rest time in the sub-basement. Good Luck.” Or worse yet, she’ll have to wear a sandwich board broadcasting the news that she is “Velcro Girl.” Then the big day comes—her shoes neatly tied by her parents—and she learns that most of her comrades haven’t got the goods on their shoelaces. Laughter as antidote to worry works wonders. Most inspired is Bliss’s (Which Would You Rather Be?, p. 668, etc) layout: illustrations, usually divided into half-pages, march the story along to present the thrumming drama as the day draws near. His big-eyed little girl shares the panic with her cat, whose face reflects hers until “Two days before kindergarten,” when he’s seen sleeping in earmuffs to drown her out. Her narrative is set in standard type, but the wittiest of comments appear in balloons tying up the laughter. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-15-202516-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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