It’s sentimental to be sure, but who can’t use a gentle nudge to remember manners? (Picture book. 4-8)

THE THANK YOU LETTER

Young Grace gives and then receives letters of love and gratitude.

After an exuberant birthday party filled with diverse kids in elaborate costumes, Grace sits down to write thank-you letters for her gifts, depicted in Cabrera’s trademark, childlike style. There’s always a bit of dissonance when an adult approximates children’s art, but these are reasonable, not-too-cloying facsimiles. Grace’s messages are just right, especially when acknowledging that while a gift might not have been perfect (she receives a toy dog rather than a living pup; gloves are too large), she’s thankful nonetheless. Upon finishing, she carries on, sending gratitude to teachers, pets, and members of her diverse community. (Grace herself has light skin and straight, dark hair.) Cabrera’s books tend to feel satisfyingly cohesive, and this is no exception. Grace returns home to dozens of love letters sent back to her pinned inside her brand-new play tent, and the whole thing cozily wraps with Grace holding a metafictive sign thanking the readers of this book. At times, the book tries too hard to be positive—where’s the whining about completing what many children regard as a chore?—and Grace’s ever present grin and dotted pink cheeks make her appear excessively dolllike, even cutesy. But the animated art style, with deeply textured acrylic colors in invitingly warm colors and cheery scrapbook paper collage, buoys the effort.

It’s sentimental to be sure, but who can’t use a gentle nudge to remember manners? (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4250-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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