If Black Lives Matter, they deserve more specificity than this.

I JUST WANT TO SAY GOOD NIGHT

A lushly illustrated picture book with a troubling message.

Little Lala walks with her father after his successful day of fishing. When Mama calls her home for bed, a host of “good night”s delays her: to the bird, the monkey, and even the rock. As Lala wanders through her village in the darkening twilight, readers appreciate its expansive beauty and Lala’s simple joys. Although it’s been artfully written and richly illustrated by an award-winning author of many multicultural stories, this book has problems that overshadow its beauty. “African veld” sets the story in southern Africa, but its vague locale encourages Americans to think that distinctions among African countries don’t matter. Lala wears braids or locks that stick straight up, recalling the 19th-century pickaninny, and her inconsistent skin color ranges from deep ebony like her father’s to light brown. Shadows may cause some of these differences, but if it weren’t for her identifiable hair, readers might wonder if the same child wanders from page to page. Perhaps most striking of all is Lala’s bedtime story: not an African tale but an American classic. While this might evoke nostalgia in some readers, it also suggests that southern Africa has no comparably great bedtime books for Lala, perhaps in part because American children’s literature dominates the world market.

If Black Lives Matter, they deserve more specificity than this. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17384-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A simple but important lesson about anxiety that will speak to young worrywarts everywhere.

THERE'S A UNICORN IN YOUR BOOK

From the Who's in Your Book? series

A troubled little unicorn needs serious help.

There are “worry gremlins” all around threatening his peace of mind. Kids will feel engaged and empowered as they follow the directions to get these gremlins out of the picture. Young readers are told to “wiggle your fingers to make some magic dust,” tickle the unicorn, tell him a joke, and shake the book. None of these tactics quite do the trick, since the gremlins keep coming back and Unicorn’s horn gets stuck in the page. A gentler shake frees the horn, and the text offers another solution, one that kids can take to heart—“The best way to get rid of a worry is to tell someone about it.” Luckily, Unicorn’s friend Monster, an innocuous blue being with tiny pink horns, is there for Unicorn to whisper his worries to. Readers are also urged to whisper something encouraging to Unicorn, who thereafter feels much better. Fears allayed, he and his friends indulge in an exuberant celebration. Kids can join in as they happily sing together against a double-page spread of stars, rays of light, fairies, and disappearing gremlins. The digital illustrations are humorous, and varying typefaces and energetic page reveals add to the fun. This entry in the Who’s in Your Book? series follows the same pattern as the others and includes characters from the previous books.

A simple but important lesson about anxiety that will speak to young worrywarts everywhere. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43476-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A simple story enhanced by its funny, gently ironic illustrations.

MY GOOD MORNING

A little girl diligently gets ready for her day but leaves lots of messes in her wake.

The unnamed girl has light brown skin and dark brown curls similar to her dad’s, and her mom is white. The characters in the digital illustrations have big, exaggerated eyes. The child narrates the text matter-of-factly in simple rhyming sentences: “Time to go potty. I can do this! / Mommy is there to make sure I don’t miss.” Each double-page spread presents a slightly different, humorous visual interpretation of the situation, and it’s in this juxtaposition that the book shines. The cat’s in the hamper, underwear and socks are on the floor, and the pink toilet paper is trailing all over. The two parents seem a little overwhelmed. As they both try to get the girl into her clothes, one arm escapes, and the dad is really sweating from exertion. She insists on tying her laces and buttoning her coat, and the illustrations show the exuberant but incomplete results. As the girl grabs her backpack, her apple rolls out, and Mommy has to grab it. At school, she hangs her coat up, but somehow it lands on the floor (her scarf is also awry), and observant viewers will notice that her shoelace is still untied. In her diverse classroom, she proudly announces: “But this time Daddy, I won’t cry”—and now readers can believe her: there’s nary a tear in sight.

A simple story enhanced by its funny, gently ironic illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60537-342-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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