A playful, poignant, and wonderfully reassuring book for children as they encounter emotional hills and valleys.


Sometimes Happiness skips right in step with your stride; other times it’s hard to locate or hold onto.

Readers find Happiness within this winning book’s covers, where it takes shape as a cheery neon pink, amorphous figure (with stumpy appendages and a funny little twisty topknot). Bright cartoon illustrations show a pale child in T-shirt and slacks engaging Happiness in myriad (literal) ways. Happiness hula-hoops, reads, marches, and eats ice cream with the youngster; it also gets lost in a dark forest, runs away, and nods off to sleep. The narrator, a steady and soothing voice, sums up what’s so very hard to understand about Happiness. “You can try to understand it, collect it, or protect it. / You can try to catch it.…But most of the time Happiness appears to have a will of its own.” Vivid, straightforward vignettes are done in a springtime palette on spacious cloud-white backdrops with nary a black line in sight. They succinctly illustrate just how exhilarating, elusive, and ephemeral Happiness can be. A powerful spread of the child riding out mammoth waves in a small boat aptly describes the bravery and resolve required to submit to overwhelming feelings and see them through. A culminating image of the sleeping child curled in bed, cuddling Happiness close with lemony morning light filling the room, provides great comfort.

A playful, poignant, and wonderfully reassuring book for children as they encounter emotional hills and valleys. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12770-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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As insubstantial as hot air.


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.


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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