A poignant exploration of depression, grief, and friendship.

MAYBE TOMORROW?

Cheerful green alligator Norris attempts to befriend Elba, a pink hippo burdened by a mysterious black block.

Norris may initially appear to be a suspiciously friendly predator, but, as evidenced by the cloud of butterflies that accompanies him everywhere, he is genuinely considerate. He finds Elba sitting on her block in the park and invites her on a picnic, then continues to check in with her after she declines. Elba is surprised when Norris joins her in sitting on her block, telling her he feels “something [sad] in there” and that “it wants to come out.” “Maybe tomorrow,” he says after they sit in silence each day. With Norris’ patient encouragement—observe his hopeful smile as they drink tea in the rain!—Elba soon agrees to visit the ocean with him, though she doubts she can make it that far with her block: “It’s too heavy….Right?” she asks, which he does not deny, instead responding, “My butterflies and I will help you.” As they slowly walk to the ocean, Elba finally opens up to Norris about the deep sadness her block represents. His empathetic response and its surprising result demonstrate the power of patience, listening, and simply showing up when loved ones are navigating difficult emotions. Ramírez’s illustrations, done in a combination of traditional and digital media, utilize bright, textured colors, simple rounded shapes, and subtle yet eloquent facial expressions to sweetly emphasize the characters’ emotional journey.

A poignant exploration of depression, grief, and friendship. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-21488-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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