Intelligently and sympathetically demonstrates that children have complex emotional lives too.

JENNY MEI IS SAD

Jenny Mei may smile and joke around, but her best friend knows that inside, she is sad.

A small, unnamed Black child with two Afro puffs describes best friend Jenny Mei (who presents Asian): a girl who can smile, share, and make people laugh even though she’s sad. But when Jenny Mei has a bad day and acts out in school, the narrator is there for her in all the ways a friend can be: waiting after school while Jenny talks with the teacher, being a good listener, or just being together—with popsicles. After a quiet walk, a game of kick the rock, and a quick exhibition of blue and purple tongues, Jenny Mei begins to cry. But our narrator is there with her, “for fun and not-fun and everything in between.” The multiplicity of emotions and depth of friendship are conveyed by Subisak’s deceptively simple text (averaging one sentence per spread) and whimsical, attentive illustrations. The characters are drawn with black outlines, colorful outfits, and dots for eyes that seem to say it all. And while the reason Jenny Mei is sad is never explicitly stated, subtle clues will give perceptive readers an idea of what’s happening in her life. Focus, however, stays on what is most important: the quiet support of a friend who understands.

Intelligently and sympathetically demonstrates that children have complex emotional lives too. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53771-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and...

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THUNDER BOY JR.

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name.

The Native American boy is named after his father, whose nickname is Big Thunder. Thunder Boy Jr. says his nickname, Little Thunder, makes him "sound like a burp or a fart." Little Thunder loves his dad, but he longs for a name that celebrates something special about him alone. He muses, “I love playing in the dirt, so maybe my name should be Mud in His Ears.…I love powwow dancing. I’m a grass dancer. So maybe my name should be Drums, Drums, and More Drums!” Little Thunder wonders how he can express these feelings to his towering father. However, he need not worry. Big Thunder knows that the time has come for his son to receive a new name, one as vibrant as his blossoming personality. Morales’ animated mixed-media illustrations, reminiscent of her Pura Belpré Award–winning work in Niño Wrestles the World (2013), masterfully use color and perspective to help readers see the world from Little Thunder’s point of view. His admiration of his dad is manifest in depictions of Big Thunder as a gentle giant of a man. The otherwise-muted palette bursts with color as Thunder Boy Jr. proudly enumerates the unique qualities and experiences that could inspire his new name.

An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and son. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-01372-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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