An intriguing examination of the inside story of one of New York City’s most important and beloved monuments.

ME AND MOMMA AND BIG JOHN

A son tells of his mother’s new job cutting stone for “Big John,” New York City’s yet-unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

He focuses his mother’s experiences at the cathedral through his own lens: She comes home covered in gray dust after daily labor on a single stone. Is his mother’s work like an artist’s, whose pictures hang in the museum? When the family visits Big John’s stone yard and soaring interiors, he understands that her contribution—painstakingly crafted, yet so small—will take its place “high above the people, Momma’s stone touching the sky.” Drawing from historical details about a 25-year apprenticeship program begun in 1982, Rockliff’s lyrical text celebrates collaboration and communion, whether as voices rising in a cathedral hymn or among the skilled workers who labored over more than a century. Low (Old Penn Station, 2007) renders many gorgeous digital spreads, articulating the extraordinary light and deep shadows within and outside the architecturally splendid cathedral. Combining the look of thick, fuzzy-edged pastel on paper with gouache on textured board, the illustrations are less successful in the figurative depictions. Awkwardly drawn shoes, feet and legs, along with some variation in the appearance of the daughter, are minor distractions from the overall strong visual appeal.

An intriguing examination of the inside story of one of New York City’s most important and beloved monuments. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4359-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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There’s always tomorrow.

TOMORROW IS WAITING

A lyrical message of perseverance and optimism.

The text uses direct address, which the title- and final-page illustrations suggest comes from an adult voice, to offer inspiration and encouragement. The opening spreads reads, “Tonight as you sleep, a new day stirs. / Each kiss good night is a wish for tomorrow,” as the accompanying art depicts a child with black hair and light skin asleep in a bed that’s fantastically situated in a stylized landscape of buildings, overpasses, and roadways. The effect is dreamlike, in contrast with the next illustration, of a child of color walking through a field and blowing dandelion fluff at sunrise. Until the last spread, each child depicted in a range of settings is solitary. Some visual metaphors falter in terms of credibility, as in the case of a white-appearing child using a wheelchair in an Antarctic ice cave strewn with obstacles, as the text reads “you’ll explore the world, only feeling lost in your imagination.” Others are oblique in attempted connections between text and art. How does a picture of a pale-skinned, black-haired child on a bridge in the rain evoke “first moments that will dance with you”? But the image of a child with pink skin and brown hair scaling a wall as text reads “there will be injustice that will challenge you, and it will surprise you how brave you can be” is clearer.

There’s always tomorrow. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99437-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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