Simultaneously confronts homophobia and celebrates child-powered change in Hindu communities: a delight.

RITU WEDS CHANDNI

Ayesha loves her cousin Ritu, and she loves weddings. So naturally, on Ritu didi’s wedding day, Ayesha is bursting with excitement!

Except that Ritu’s is no ordinary Hindu wedding: Instead of marrying a man, Ritu is marrying her girlfriend, Chandni. This means that Ritu will be leading the baraat, a celebratory procession full of music and dancing that, in Hindu weddings, is traditionally led by the groom. But it also means that many of Ayesha’s family shun the wedding, that neighbors shout unkind words at the baraat as it goes by, and that strangers turn hoses on the wedding party to try to stop the festivities. When Ayesha sees the way that the world treats her favorite cousin, she is heartbroken—but she is also determined. In the end, it is Ayesha’s love for her family—and commitment to every minute of wedding fun—that saves the day. The book’s well-paced, heartfelt narration deftly celebrates the power of resistance without shirking the harsh realities of homophobia in many traditional Hindu communities. The vivid, authentic illustrations, which implicitly set the book in India, showcase a variety of skin colors and body types in a true reflection of South Asia’s diversity. Ayesha’s unconditional love for her cousin and her spunky insistence on continuing with the wedding ceremonies even in the face of intense hatred are moving and inspiring.

Simultaneously confronts homophobia and celebrates child-powered change in Hindu communities: a delight. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949528-94-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Yali Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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