In a crowded subgenre, this offering is unnecessary.


Anger at a sibling gets taken out on a friend.

Protagonist Keya fumes when younger brother Nate gives Keya’s cereal to the dog and cuts holes in Keya’s favorite hat. Keya stomps outside. Hooper, Keya’s friend, offers a cheerful greeting, but Keya darts away. A fantasy race ensues, briefly cathartic, but Keya’s temper explodes after a knee-scraping tumble. Keya bursts out, “I don’t like you, Hooper.” It’s not true, of course, and they make up after a sweetly responsible apology. Aside from twice waxing poetic (“The kind of mad that starts / and swells / and spreads like a rash”), Adelman’s prose is dull and declarative (“Then we joked and laughed. I was so happy”). Keya and her family present white and Hooper, black. Keya’s glorious, lively black curls are de la Prada’s best visual. Many illustrations are too uniformly saturated, with the composition offering no clear place to focus. A “gold medal like sunshine” that Keya wins in the imagined race is barely visible. In a critical misstep for a book for fostering emotional literacy, narrator Keya says Hooper looks “way past mad”—echoing an earlier description of Keya—while the illustrations clearly show him as hurt, not angry. Choose Tameka Fryer Brown and Shane Evans’ My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (2013) or Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972) instead.

In a crowded subgenre, this offering is unnecessary. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8685-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture...


Displaying his distinctive voice and images, Reynolds celebrates the joys and challenges of being a creative spirit.

“I am a HAPPY DREAMER,” cheers a thin, spiky-haired white boy as he flies skyward, streaming yellow swirls of sparkles. This little “dreamer maximus” piles on the energy with colors and noise and the joy-filled exuberance he has for life. “Wish you could HEAR inside my head / TRUMPETY, ZIGZAG JAZZ!” With clear honesty, he shares that the world tells him to be quiet, to focus and pay attention. Like a roller-coaster ride, Reynolds’ text and illustrations capture the energetic side of creativity and the gloom of cleaning up the messes that come with it while providing a wide vocabulary to describe emotional brilliance and resilience. The protagonist makes no apologies for expressing his feelings and embracing his distinct view of the world. This makes him happy. The book finishes with a question to readers: “What kind of dreamer are you?” Hinging outward, the double-page spread opens to four panels, each with a dozen examples of multiracial children being happy and being dreamers, showing inspiring possibilities for exploration. The best way, of course, is to “just BE YOU.”

A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86501-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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