This tale of celebrating inner beauty should appeal to Donaldson and Scheffler’s fans as well as to animal lovers.

THE UGLY FIVE

Fan favorites Donaldson and Scheffler (Zog and the Flying Doctors, 2017, etc.) return with a rhyming introduction to the so-called ugliest animals on the African savanna.

The story begins with the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard) and friends lounging about being “glorious,” “cool,” “fine,” “divine,” “graceful,” and “great.” When a wildebeest enters the scene, the other animals don’t label her, but she proclaims herself “the ugly one” (though the description of her physical appearance doesn’t entirely match the illustration). The wildebeest doesn’t seem bothered to be ugly and soon meets the hyena, who she thinks is even uglier than she, and the hyena concurs. The wildebeest invites the hyena to “Join the club,” and a pattern emerges. As they walk through the savanna, they’re joined by a vulture, a warthog, and a marabou stork. Each time a new animal joins the bunch, they modify their silly song about how ugly they are. Readers are sure to enjoy singing along to this, though making the rest of the text rhyme is sometimes a stretch. At the end, their children proclaim them to be good parents and the loveliest of animals. Scheffler’s signature illustrations add humor to the story and bring the setting to life.

This tale of celebrating inner beauty should appeal to Donaldson and Scheffler’s fans as well as to animal lovers. (author’s note, picture glossary) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-24953-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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