This engaging, edifying, delightfully nerdy childhood retrospective from one of today’s inspirational leaders speaks volumes.

STACEY’S EXTRAORDINARY WORDS

Before Stacey Abrams became today’s leading voting rights activist and the first Black woman in American history to become a gubernatorial candidate, she was a spelling bee hopeful.

Stacey is a kid who understands the power of language. Ushered from infancy into the world of books by her librarian mother, she is a devoted student of the dictionary and a diligent young linguist in her own right, squirreling away words in a dedicated notebook. Quiet and awkward, she finds refuge and clarity in reading and writing. When she is nominated by her second grade teacher, Mrs. Blakeslee, to participate in the school spelling bee, Stacey is thrilled. However there is one problem—she will be competing alongside Jake, the class bully, whom she has always shrunk from; but, “perhaps at this spelling bee she would be braver.” Readers follow Stacey as she painstakingly prepares, steps onto the competition stage—not once, but many times—and ultimately finds her voice with the loving support of her wise momma. The text is well turned, delivering both emotional resonance and compelling, albeit unromanticized, messages about the value of perseverance and the importance of speaking up for what is right. Thomas’ bold, vibrant digital illustrations use spotlights as a motif, subtly foreshadowing young Stacey’s future as a public speaker, and excel at depicting multiple scenes on the same page to create a sense of parallel action. Jake is White, and several illustrations include diverse representation.

This engaging, edifying, delightfully nerdy childhood retrospective from one of today’s inspirational leaders speaks volumes. (Picture book autobiography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-320947-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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