Kids won’t be stone faced and will definitely stick with this delightful story about friendship.

STICK AND STONE

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!

From the Stick and Stone series

When you search for family—and discover it’s always been there.

The pals introduced in Stick and Stone’s first eponymous outing (2015) set out on a quest for Stick’s literal family tree. From what kind of tree did he break off? Oak, spruce, willow? The duo ventures forth, determined to find Stick’s origins, traversing bodies of water, forests, valleys, and mountains. Though surrounded by trees, Stick can’t find his familial roots. Soon, things turn ominous: Darkness falls, shadows and strange noises become unnerving, and the terrified pair realizes they’re lost. No fear, though. They eventually return safely, and Stone helps disconsolate Stick understand who his family is and always has been—and that differences don’t matter. This sweetly adorable story, expressed textually through simple, jaunty verse, conveys the reassuring message that family and true friends always (ahem) stick by you when you need them. The bright illustrations, aptly set mostly in nature, are equally endearing, with the protagonists exuding optimism and cheerfulness (except during that scary forest adventure). They register a broad range of expressions, though their faces are created merely from dots and curves denoting broad smiles. Brownish Stick bears pairs of short, chunky projectiles connoting limbs; his tilted head resembles a wizard’s cap. Stone is orange-brown and looks like a rotund meatball. Endpapers feature numerous smiling iterations of Stick representing branches from different trees; included labels and leaves show variances.

Kids won’t be stone faced and will definitely stick with this delightful story about friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-47302-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available.

THE LITTLE GHOST WHO WAS A QUILT

A ghost learns to appreciate his differences.

The little ghost protagonist of this title is unusual. He’s a quilt, not a lightweight sheet like his parents and friends. He dislikes being different despite his mom’s reassurance that his ancestors also had unconventional appearances. Halloween makes the little ghost happy, though. He decides to watch trick-or-treaters by draping over a porch chair—but lands on a porch rail instead. A mom accompanying her daughter picks him up, wraps him around her chilly daughter, and brings him home with them! The family likes his looks and comforting warmth, and the little ghost immediately feels better about himself. As soon as he’s able to, he flies out through the chimney and muses happily that this adventure happened only due to his being a quilt. This odd but gently told story conveys the importance of self-respect and acceptance of one’s uniqueness. The delivery of this positive message has something of a heavy-handed feel and is rushed besides. It also isn’t entirely logical: The protagonist could have been a different type of covering; a blanket, for instance, might have enjoyed an identical experience. The soft, pleasing illustrations’ palette of tans, grays, white, black, some touches of color, and, occasionally, white text against black backgrounds suggest isolation, such as the ghost feels about himself. Most humans, including the trick-or-treating mom and daughter, have beige skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.2% of actual size.)

Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6447-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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