A poignant look at a homeless woman and her family—a constellation too rarely seen.

AUNT PEARL

Marta and Dan’s mom wants to help her transient sister, Pearl, who’s accustomed to couch surfing, hostels, and park benches.

“ ‘That’s not how it should be,’ said Mom. ‘Pearl will live with us.’ ” Pearl, whom the kids have never met, arrives with a loaded shopping cart. A man with a van brings more stuff. It fills the garage, the basement, and Pearl’s bedroom—conflicting with Mom’s penchant for tidiness. Dan reads the sentiments on Pearl’s hat buttons: “Normal people scare me.” Free-spirited Marta, age 6, accompanies Pearl on garbage-day scavenging, helping provide “a second chance” for castoff finds. Creative Pearl engages the diverse kids at Dan and Marta’s day camp in decorating a salvaged coffee table with bottle caps—a gift for Mom. But Pearl’s hoarding behavior and failed attempts to help domestically deepen the sisters’ discomfort. As summer turns, Pearl grows increasingly despondent, and one morning, she’s gone. Dan’s tearful: “Why’d she go?…She left her stuff.” But Marta “knew a mystery when she met one.” Luxbacher’s mixed-media illustrations supply visual clues: The buttons on Pearl’s left-behind hat are obscured with fabric scraps—a double-edged gift for Rose? On the table rest three fabric napkins—polka-dot, just like Pearl’s carry-bag. The ambiguity will have children and caregivers talking. Dan is dark-haired with light brown skin; the others present as white.

A poignant look at a homeless woman and her family—a constellation too rarely seen. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-153-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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