A reassuring story that should leave readers feeling a bit more self-confident.

THE VERY LAST LEAF

How do leaves know when to fall?

Lance Cottonwood is the sharpest leaf in school. He aces all his courses, including Budding, Wind Resistance, Photosynthesis 101, and Pigment Changing. The autumn semester brings anxiety, though. How will he pass the final exam and float effortlessly from his tree to the ground as he’s supposed to? Lance has a big problem for a leaf: He’s afraid of falling. He makes excuses for not doing it, then determines to emulate an evergreen cluster and remain tree-bound all winter. After a kindly teacher helps him overcome his fears, he decides to just do it. With encouragement from teacher and schoolmates, Lance lets go and lands on the ground safely. This jaunty, endearing autumn story might help anxious youngsters confront their own apprehension at facing worrisome experiences. Even though Lance literally lets go, he doesn’t let go of his fears but rather understands and accepts them—and performs the scary activity anyway, feeling proud of himself afterward. Besides reassuring readers, the tale provides some facts about trees. Autumn-colored display type, sometimes capitalized, appears throughout to express Lance’s and other characters’ dialogue. The charming illustrations depict sweet-faced, expressive, heart-shaped Lance and fellow leaves rendered in fall colors. A fact-based “progress report” for Lance appears on the final page.

A reassuring story that should leave readers feeling a bit more self-confident. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68446-104-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Editions

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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