There are lots of children’s books about cute bears who talk like people, but few are as cleverly put together and as witty...

ALBERT'S TREE

A wailing, sad tree poses a problem for a loving bear just waking from hibernation.

When Albert, a cuddly brown bear, wakes up as the snow starts to melt, he knows exactly where to go. His tree, which is perfect to him (“Not too hard, or too soft, or too slippery, or too prickly”), is waiting. But the tree doesn’t seem as happy to be reunited; it begins to cry uncontrollably, leading Albert and forest friends such as Rabbit and Caribou to offer possible remedies, from digging holes to play in to gathering grass to eat. When Albert tries a big bear hug, he finds that Tree is harboring a resident, Owl, who is crying aloud for fear of the big, furry monster lurking nearby. (It’s Albert, of course.) The picture book is as cozy and familiar as a teddy bear’s embrace, but smart touches elevate the story. They include vignettes against white space that contrast beautifully with more detailed and colorful spreads that give a wider view of the world around Albert. And by naming Albert alone of the characters, Desmond keeps readers’ sympathies squarely on the well-meaning mammal. If that weren’t enough, the endpapers include a lovely cutaway view of underground hibernation and a hilarious offhand joke that add beauty and charm, respectively, to an already endearing effort.

There are lots of children’s books about cute bears who talk like people, but few are as cleverly put together and as witty as Albert’s little adventure. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9688-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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