This tries too hard to be funny…and misses.

BE GLAD YOUR DAD...(IS NOT AN OCTOPUS!)

A pair of siblings explores the reasons why a dad of another species would be way worse than the dad they have now.

Even though their dad is sometimes grumpy and gross, at least he doesn’t leave balls of poop in their rooms as a dung-beetle dad might. And they should be glad he’s not a snake who might shed his skin in front of all their friends—that would be embarrassing. Saying “Boo!” to a skunk dad might result in some major stink, and an owl dad would keep them awake all night. Readers will get the idea after the first few spreads, but the shtick covers 16 animals. Chapman’s illustrations are done on vibrantly colored backgrounds, the characters and animals in full color, while props and extra details are only outlined in black. The typography gets in on the act: “Be glad your dad is not a TORTOISE, because e v e r y t h i n g  w o u l d  t a k e  f o r e v e r.” Like the words, a trail of melted ice cream stretches across the spread from the cone dad has scooped his child. While the characters’ faces express emotion, readers may be distracted by their noses, which are piglike and oddly dark against their otherwise fair skin. Three final pages tell “More about the animals in this book,” but these facts vary widely in the quality of the information they impart (it’s never explained why a quail dad would be boring, for instance).

This tries too hard to be funny…and misses. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-25438-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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