For lovers of Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López’s The Day You Begin (2018), a sweet lesson on how to glow from the inside...

WHEN YOU ARE BRAVE

In this new book from the creative duo behind Wherever You Go (2015), a child warily bids adieu to a beloved former home and summons the courage to embrace the new one.

A family says farewell to neighbors as they pack the last of their belongings into a car and trailer. In a mostly empty room, a pigtailed child holds a photo album. The family drives away from what was their home, and, visibly nostalgic, the child opens the photo album. Miller’s text, replete with musical pulses, evokes the emotional and trying journey: “Because some days are full of things you’d rather not do. // Like plunging into a pool all by yourself, hoping you’ll swim and not sink. / Or standing alone, in front of a crowd, searching for one friendly face.” The drive is a journey through busy city traffic then a somber, rainy forested range that culminates in hilly, coastal views. With mixed traditional media, Wheeler revels in color—dramatic, muted hues and warm glowing pages mirror the protagonist’s feelings. Graceful, sinuous artwork depicting various panoramas adorns mostly double-page spreads, encouraging readers to observe how the illustrations echo the verses. One dazzling spread cleverly uses stars, moon, and twilight to convey the protagonist’s brightness, bravery, and courage. Both child and family are racially ambiguous, with light skin and straight, dark hair.

For lovers of Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López’s The Day You Begin (2018), a sweet lesson on how to glow from the inside out. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-39252-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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