A charming ode to the lyricism of language.

THE MAGIC OF LETTERS

Journey through a land where words take flight and spark creativity.

A fantastical bespectacled rabbit is readers’ guide into a top hat and through Johnston and Minor’s wonderland of words as they celebrate the power of language to instruct, inspire, and delight children. The journey, which begins and ends on the dust cover, is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s classic topsy-turvy adventure, complete with a rabbit magician whose adeptness with wordplay prompts it to take a bow at the end. “Letters hold POWER,” it says, before going on to celebrate “giggling words like flibbertigibbet. Yummy words like QUESADILLA [and] bewitching words like enchanted.” Put together, “they say what you need to tell somebody. ‘The flibbertigibbet ate an enchanted quesadilla,’ ” for instance. The illustrations, which range from a scene done in a collage style incorporating cutout words to a blue, fairy-filled dreamscape, capture the sense of wonder that the story wishes to covey. The design makes clever use of the double-page spread to convey a child’s joy at recognizing their name in print and the power of words to literally make imaginations soar. Given the sophistication of some of the words in the story, it is best read with slightly older kindergarteners. While the rabbit is firmly established in the narrative, the two children, one black and one white, who occasionally appear in the illustrations feel less connected to the text.

A charming ode to the lyricism of language. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4159-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Despite the name recognition of the author and relevance of the story, sweet yet inconsequential.

I COLOR MYSELF DIFFERENT

A debut picture book from the NFL quarterback who took a knee during the national anthem.

Kaepernick speaks directly to children about growing up Black in a White family. The story focuses on one incident: When he shares a drawing of his adoptive family with his class, other students ask why he’s the only brown-skinned one. But with reassurance from his mother, young Colin realizes he should take pride in his identity. Although he says, “I don’t know too many kids who look like me,” the bland, somewhat idealized illustrations show a classroom with children with a variety of skin tones, and the teacher is Black. The story includes a rather simplistic explanation of what it means to be adopted: “Ever since Mom wrapped me in that warm hug, I knew having brown skin and being adopted made me special.” Kaepernick adds, “I have brown eyes, a brown nose, and brown hands...just like the people who inspire, create, lead, and change the world.” The accompanying illustration depicts nine African American historical figures, including athletes famous for taking political stands: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics, and Muhammad Ali, as well as Huey Newton, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Malcolm X. The historical roles of these individuals are explained in a brief addendum. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Despite the name recognition of the author and relevance of the story, sweet yet inconsequential. (“letter to the reader”) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-78962-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2022

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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