It’s another near-perfect slice of life from a duo that has found a way to spotlight underrepresented children without...

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CARMELA FULL OF WISHES

On her birthday, a young girl accompanies her brother on his errands for the first time and makes a wish, but not exactly in the way she was expecting.

When readers meet 7-year-old Carmela, she is scootering past workers in fields, excited to tag along with her older brother on her birthday. It’s fun for her, but it’s also necessary: Their mother works in housekeeping for a fancy hotel, and their father was a day laborer who is no longer home. As they run errands, Carmela plays the annoying little sister, but when she falls off her scooter and loses a dandelion wish she was counting on, her brother takes her to a place where her wish is carried further than she could have imagined. This second de la Peña–Robinson collaboration after Last Stop on Market Street is no less powerful and beautiful. It touches on immigration, class, and loss without belaboring each. And it’s full of rich details, sharp and restrained writing, and acrylic paintings that look textured enough to rise off the page. In one brilliant sequence, Mexican papel picado depicts what Carmela imagines, ending with “her dad getting his papers fixed so he could finally be home” and a cutout of a kneeling father embracing his daughter. It’s a bracing page, the best in the book, and just as sublime as the text.

It’s another near-perfect slice of life from a duo that has found a way to spotlight underrepresented children without forgetting that they are children first. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-54904-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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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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