A sweet and spunky everyday adventure.

MAX ON THE FARM

From the Max and Friends series , Vol. 3

Two friends sneak off on a late-night adventure during their class field trip in this third series installment by Stonewall Award–winner Lukoff.

White, transgender boy Max and his friend Teresa, a cisgender girl of color, love making messes together. Although Max doesn’t like getting into trouble, Teresa thinks trouble is part of the fun. When their class takes an overnight field trip to a farm, unexpected mischief awaits them after dark in the stinky, muddy pigpen. This picture book/early reader hybrid captures the playful, innocent spirit of two friends testing the boundaries of the world around them as Teresa’s spontaneity encourages Max outside of his comfort zone. The story centers on the dynamic of their friendship and what they learn on the farm, but readers of previous titles in the series will recognize recurring characters in the background, and both Max’s teacher and his whole class support him when the farmer and square dance instructor misgender him. Lozano depicts racial diversity in Max’s classmates, including students with pink to dark-brown skin and different textures of hair. Lukoff’s representation of a transgender character is refreshingly casual and well rounded. He provides much-needed inclusion for transgender youth in a new-experience story that doesn’t fixate on identity as a point of conflict and goes beyond the coming-out narrative.

A sweet and spunky everyday adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6863-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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