Pedantic and, contrary to its goal, exoticizing.

YES I CAN!

A GIRL AND HER WHEELCHAIR

A girl who uses a wheelchair goes about her everyday life.

“This is Carolyn. Like many kids her age, Carolyn loves animals, castles, and building with blocks,” opens the text, revealing its aim of conveying to readers who do not use wheelchairs that a wheelchair-using girl is just like them. Carolyn “joins right in during reading time”—but why wouldn’t she? Discussions of ordinary pleasures, such as sitting next to a friend at lunch, and everyday adaptations—a school bus with an elevator “made just for wheelchairs!” (not for people using wheelchairs?)—end with exclamation marks. This forced positivity also applies to Carolyn’s mood. “Yes I can!” she repeats over and over (not in defense but supposedly out of pure enthusiasm), which makes her sound more like a political slogan than a kid. There’s lip service paid to disappointment and frustration, but everything springs back to that can-do spirit. Lemay’s children have big heads, tiny, skinny limbs, and good cheer. Carolyn is white or light-skinned, with straight, light-brown hair; her class is multiracial. The prose is mind-numbingly dull (“She is helpful to her mom and dad and even to her baby brother”); even a drop of characterization would serve readers better than this message to kids with and without wheelchairs that wheelchair users should keep everyone’s chins up, including their own. Backmatter directed to adults is awkward and, bizarrely, adds new information about Carolyn as if she were real.

Pedantic and, contrary to its goal, exoticizing. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4338-2869-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.

WAY PAST WORRIED

Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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