Well-intentioned but indirect and clunky.

OLIVIA WRAPPED IN VINES

Anxiety hinders a child.

Olivia, a peach-skinned kid with a brown bob cut, narrates in a direct first-person voice. She lists the things she possesses—a bicycle, red shoes adorned with stars, a soft plush lion, and “vines.” The thorny vines, wrapping around her body, are a metaphor for anxiety. They are brought on by being late, going to the dentist, talking with strangers, anticipatory fear of adults’ anger, and sometimes “NOTHING AT ALL!” Despite Olivia’s helpful teacher, the vines are exhausting and prevent Olivia from moving freely, doing math, and jumping off the diving board at the pool. Although the characters’ facial expressions are crystal clear, the text never decodes the vines as representing anxiety. The prose, including Olivia’s introduction about her bike, shoes, and stuffed animal, may prompt young readers to think that physical vines are causing Olivia’s stress. Forced textual playfulness in the teacher’s nicknames for the students (“my little monkey in flip-flops” and “my little chocolate frog”) is jarring and inorganic. The illustrations bring nothing special and, bizarrely, include the stuffed lion in a group of people Olivia imagines mocking her. Moreover, vine-wrapped Olivia’s self-chosen label as “a big, spiky ball that no one wants to be near” will sting readers who have anxiety. Reach for Anthony Browne’s What If…? (2014) and Patrick McDonnell’s A Perfectly Messed-Up Story (2014) instead.

Well-intentioned but indirect and clunky. (activities) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4598-3103-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A fresh take on an enduring theme.

MOST PERFECT YOU

When Irie tells her momma she hates her big poofy hair, her momma explains that everything about Irie was perfectly custom made.

Irie wants her hair to swing and bounce like the “pretty hair” that “everyone else” has. But Momma tells her that she didn’t make Irie to be like everyone else. “I made you to be you.” Momma explains that when she was expecting Irie, she talked to God and made special requests. Out of all the skin tones in the world, Momma chose her favorite for Irie. The same for her hair type, her sparkling eyes, her kissable nose, and her bright smile. Momma also chose a good heart for Irie, and when she was born, she was perfect, and as she grew, she was kind. When Momma tells her “you are all of my favorite things,” Irie runs to the mirror and sees herself with new eyes: a “most perfect me.” This sweet, imaginative tale highlights the importance of parental love in boosting children’s self-esteem and will be a touching read-aloud for families who have struggled with issues of fitting in. The story is a challenging one to illustrate; the full-color digital art is warm with soft shades of natural-looking color but struggles to create engaging scenes to accompany Momma’s explanation of her conversation with God. The multiple spreads showing Irie and Momma flying through the atmosphere among clouds, stars, and hearts become a bit monotonous and lack depth of expression. Characters are Black. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A fresh take on an enduring theme. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-42694-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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