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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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

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THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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