Well-written and full of fun surprises.

ARLO DRAWS AN OCTOPUS

When Arlo becomes frustrated with his octopus drawing, he finds encouragement in the drawing of a newfound friend.

“One day, quite unexpectedly,” Arlo, a brown-skinned boy with curly hair, bursts into his home having made a decision: He is going to draw an octopus. But the head he draws doesn’t look quite like an octopus head. He picks up another crayon and draws eight arms. But the arms don’t look like octopus arms. By the time he finishes the suction cups, Arlo is dismayed by how little resemblance his drawing bears to an octopus. “Perturbed,” he crumples up his drawing and tosses it away. When he goes to retrieve it for proper disposal, the crumpled drawing he picks up is not his at all. It is an octopus’ drawing—of Arlo! Each subject likes the other’s rendering, and Arlo is inspired anew. Arlo’s roller coaster of emotions will feel comfortingly familiar to anyone whose enthusiasm has ever been dampened by perfectionism. When he gets back on the proverbial horse, readers will feel relief and may themselves have learned a thing or two about not being too hard on oneself. Dramatic characters in smooth colors mix with crayon-textured embellishment for an engaging foray into Arlo’s emotional journey. Arlo never questions the sudden appearance of this marine creature in his home, adding an appealing layer of absurdity and causing readers to question what’s imagination and what’s reality. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Well-written and full of fun surprises. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4201-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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