Riley’s courageous vulnerability is refreshing, fun, and worthy of celebration.

WHAT RILEY WORE

Is Riley a girl or a boy? Riley decides to answer an entirely different question through the creative self-expression of their clothing.

Each day of the week, Riley invents a new outfit to wear to school, around the house, and to the park. The tan-skinned, dark-haired protagonist has clothing for every mood and occasion: a bunny suit for first-day-of-school shyness, “a superhero cape to the dentist’s because teeth cleaning is scary,” and a tutu, perfectly mismatched with a dinosaur hat, for the weekend. Instead of making Riley a target of bullies, the gender-fluid ensembles draw their classmates in. Heartwarmingly, Arnold and Davick depict the spectacularly nongendered protagonist in positive connection with the people around them. Children are at the center of this colorful story: Adults, when they appear, mostly line the periphery of Davick’s double-page–spread illustrations while classmates of various skin tones are featured in cheerful detail. In the growing landscape of children’s books that explore gender, this offering beautifully normalizes the multifaceted gender expressions people can have, demonstrates the support adults can provide to nonbinary children, and models how easily young ones can relate to one another without having to choose between two gender options. Though Riley’s gender identity is never explicitly stated in the narrative, Arnold and Davick’s entertaining tale speaks volumes about the creativity of nonbinary kids.

Riley’s courageous vulnerability is refreshing, fun, and worthy of celebration. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7260-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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