Multiple titles already explore nearly identical themes, and at this point any of them will suffice until the industry...

SPARKLE BOY

Newman adds to her lengthy resume of LGBT–themed books for children with this story about sibling rivalry and gender nonconformity.

Despite the title, this book is not about Casey, the titular Sparkle Boy. It’s about his big sister, Jessie, and her ongoing attempts to bully, shame, and otherwise convince her little brother that “boys don’t wear shimmery skirts,” paint their fingernails, or otherwise accessorize. Casey’s parents and abuelita, indicated as a Latino or mixed family, are refreshingly supportive and kind, but Jessie’s anger overshadows much of the story. Readers never learn why Jessie feels such antagonism, with no space given for reflection or empathy, nor does Casey display much depth of personality beyond his ravenlike attraction to shiny things. Of course, Jessie has a sudden and clichéd change of heart at the very end, when she’s compelled to protect her brother against other children making identical accusations about his gender expression, and by the end the siblings “adore...each other.” With illustrations that are colorful yet subdued and stationary, there’s little to distinguish this story from other recent picture books about femme boys and trans girls who are forced to endure maltreatment from family, community, or both.

Multiple titles already explore nearly identical themes, and at this point any of them will suffice until the industry yields more interesting and nuanced portrayals. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62014-285-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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