Gentle, comforting bibliotherapy.

REMEMBERING ETHAN

A family begins healing following a devastating loss.

Sarah lovingly remembers big brother Ethan, who has died. Mommy and Daddy won’t talk or reminisce about him; neither wants to hear his name. Small acts offer solace: saying Ethan’s name aloud, writing his name, drawing his picture. When Sarah hangs the drawing on the refrigerator, Mommy and Daddy, distraught, leave the room. When Sarah angrily shouts that no one else seems to miss or remember Ethan, Mommy and Daddy must finally confront their pain. In doing so, they rehang the drawing in a more prominent location and gently explain that it’s grief that’s made them seem unfeeling. Poring over a family album allows everyone to openly share happy memories. The upbeat ending of this well-written, reassuring tale feels a tad rushed, and there’s no sense of how much time has elapsed since Ethan’s death. However, the author gets two important plot points just right. The circumstances surrounding Ethan’s death aren’t mentioned, suggesting the family (all depicted with pale skin and dark hair) is heartbroken simply because Ethan has died; as in real life, one cause is no less wrenching than another. Furthermore, the child has real agency; Sarah effects change in the family dynamic that leads to cathartic healing. The delicate illustrations are expressive and effective. Useful psychologist’s tips in the backmatter guide adults in helping children discuss the death of a family member.

Gentle, comforting bibliotherapy. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3113-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture...

HAPPY DREAMER

Displaying his distinctive voice and images, Reynolds celebrates the joys and challenges of being a creative spirit.

“I am a HAPPY DREAMER,” cheers a thin, spiky-haired white boy as he flies skyward, streaming yellow swirls of sparkles. This little “dreamer maximus” piles on the energy with colors and noise and the joy-filled exuberance he has for life. “Wish you could HEAR inside my head / TRUMPETY, ZIGZAG JAZZ!” With clear honesty, he shares that the world tells him to be quiet, to focus and pay attention. Like a roller-coaster ride, Reynolds’ text and illustrations capture the energetic side of creativity and the gloom of cleaning up the messes that come with it while providing a wide vocabulary to describe emotional brilliance and resilience. The protagonist makes no apologies for expressing his feelings and embracing his distinct view of the world. This makes him happy. The book finishes with a question to readers: “What kind of dreamer are you?” Hinging outward, the double-page spread opens to four panels, each with a dozen examples of multiracial children being happy and being dreamers, showing inspiring possibilities for exploration. The best way, of course, is to “just BE YOU.”

A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86501-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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