This little book could make a big difference.

THE LITTLE LIBRARY

From the Mr. Tiffin's Classroom series

A school librarian helps their student succeed as a reader and grow as a community member.

While there are many picture books about libraries, librarians, books, and reading, this fifth installment in McNamara and Karas’ series about Mr. Tiffin’s class is a standout. Not only does Librarian Beck offer Jake compassionate encouragement through careful reader’s advisory and reassuring comments about his reading preferences, they also present as nonbinary with they/them pronouns and clothing and hairstyling that resist strict gender norms. The matter-of-fact inclusion of this character is groundbreaking, especially since Librarian Beck’s gender is not a focus of the story. Instead, Jake’s early resistance to reading and then his immersion in Woodworking for Young Hands define the earlier parts of the plot. Jake renews this favorite book many times and is saddened to learn the school library will be closed at the end of the school year. The story culminates with him working with his grandfather to build a Little Free Library for Librarian Beck, who installs it outside the school for students to enjoy. A closing moment may warm hearts (though it risks undermining core principles of librarianship) when Jake receives a package from Librarian Beck with Woodworking for Young Hands inside, its title page stamped with the word WITHDRAWN. All main characters present as White. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 37% of actual size.)

This little book could make a big difference. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-57833-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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