On discouraging days, this book will help readers find their place in the world with greater love for themselves and others.

YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING

Page after page of gentle affirmations to support self-acceptance and resolve self-doubts.

After drawing an imagined adventure, a slicker-clad elementary-age kid leaves a house nestled in a small community and journeys to a nearby woodland. Soothing sentence pairs follow a predictable pattern: “It is not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took.” Along the way, the protagonist, who has brown hair and light beige skin, is joined by two neighbors, a brown-skinned child with glasses and black curly hair tucked under a hat and an extremely pale White kid with blond hair. Throughout the day, they plan, scavenge, build, and finally enjoy a clubhouse under a huge tree. “It is not being a hero. / It is being part of a team. // It is not putting up walls. / It is about building a dream.” All the while, the children are surrounded by trees shown in richly colored realistic images—with just a touch of fantasy—standing out against a white background. Fairies, gnomes in pointed hats, and anthropomorphic rocks, flowers, animals, and insects are never far from the action. (Humanoid figures are diverse.) At the end of the day, the children’s story emphasizes a positive sense of self and optimism for what the journey tomorrow will bring. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 82% of actual size.)

On discouraging days, this book will help readers find their place in the world with greater love for themselves and others. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31183-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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