Mixed metaphors cloud the power of this familiar message.

BETWEEN THE LINES

A vibrant neighborhood loses its color, literally, as the community becomes fractured.

Color is not a subtle metaphor in this story of a time when “the colors were swept from our street,” told by an unnamed boy with pale skin. Initially, loose-lined illustrations depict a lively city block in bright hues, but as the “sounds became quieter,” the colors begin to fade. Then, after a violent storm of jagged yellow streaks and bursts of fiery sparks, the color is completely gone. Not only are the city and its residents now composed only of cartoony black lines, but on the ground there is a dark rupture (another line) that divides the neighborhood. In one illustration, the boy stands on one side of the split while a girl with dark skin stands on the other. Is the rift a racial one? The next illustration shows the same children indoors, waving at each other through their windows. Does this “empty sadness” that lasts a year represent the Covid-19 pandemic? Is the emphasis on lines a commentary on society’s disconnectedness? Unfortunately, this year any of these interpretations could be true, and the myriad possibilities dilute a clear message. Nevertheless, the boy decides to do the hard work of clearing the rubble the storm left behind, and as neighbors join in to help, smiles and laughter return, bringing, predictably, the color back.

Mixed metaphors cloud the power of this familiar message. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2690-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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