A well-crafted, engaging book about resilient childhoods in the face of displacement and conflict.

CHILD'S PLAY

Danny loves to make music, Molly loves to paint and draw, and Marcus loves to write.

The three siblings engage in their creative worlds individually and together, finding refuge from stressors around them and producing songs, stories, poems, and beautiful artwork. Color-rich, collage-infused illustrations (printed on environmentally friendly pages) portray their joyful play, in contrast with protests, conflict, and fighting in the background. The street and protest signs as well as the words on TV appear in the book’s original Spanish. The brown-skinned children continue to pursue their passions despite their parents’ urging that they stay quiet, and their teachers become concerned that they’re not paying attention in school and are isolating themselves. But the children’s play is a form of therapy or mechanism for survival, as they seem to be able to shut off the hostile noises of the world around them. When the siblings realize that they need to move to a new, safer house in another country, they become very sad. However, shortly thereafter they conclude that home is where the heart and family are. They then create a warm home in their new residence and continue to be who they are—joyful creative children at play. The most important thing is for them to stay together.

A well-crafted, engaging book about resilient childhoods in the face of displacement and conflict. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-84-16733-76-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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