For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a...

NATE LIKES TO SKATE

From the I Like To Read series

Degen attempts the daunting task of writing a satisfying story using just 49 words and avoiding singsong rhymes.

Nate, a gray, skateboarding kitten, and Kate, an orange kitten enamored of hats, experience a bobble in their friendship. Words in the “-ate” and “-at” word families are used repeatedly. Nate, skate, great, grate, hate, gate, wait, and late, and hat, that, flat, and even brat are repeated often enough that beginning readers will start to recognize and anticipate them and eventually read them. Observant readers will also find some of these words or their variants in the first few illustrations. The 33 sight words are all one syllable and are also used repeatedly. The book succeeds admirably as a beginning reader. Its success as a picture book is more problematic. The story is slight, and the central conflict—hurt feelings between friends—is quickly and arbitrarily resolved with Nate’s and Kate’s mutual apologies when feelings are hurt and subsequent appreciation of each other’s enthusiasms. Thankfully, this is accomplished without any preachy adult intervention. Some grown-ups may be uncomfortable with the recurrence of “hate” and “brat,” but children will appreciate the unvarnished feelings.

For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a nonpedantic beginning reader, Degen’s offering works well enough. (Picture book/early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3456-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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