Not exactly first-class travel.

PEACE TRAIN

Climb aboard, with this visual interpretation of the classic 1971 song.

The lyrics of Stevens’ song are the catalyst for this colorful picture book, which depicts a golden-hued train with a plume of psychedelic smoke initially traveling across an unknown and barren landscape. As the train chugs along, a tan-skinned, purple-haired guitar player makes their way to the train and travels with it, sometimes riding, sometimes walking alongside it, as it picks up a racially and ethnically diverse group of passengers. Reynolds’ cartoon illustrations are characteristically bold, the flower-power symbols in the smoke making a cheery if sometimes hard-to-distinguish clutter. As with many songs-cum–picture books, some of the lyrics defy visual interpretation. “Everyone jump up on the Peace Train” is nicely imagined with a cat leaping into the arms of the guitar-playing protagonist, but Reynolds’ accompaniment to the stanza that begins “Now, come and join the living” simply frames it in a close-up of symbolic smoke. In visual answer to “Why must we go on hating? / Why can’t we live in bliss?” the guitar player lays musical notes over a scary hole in the tracks that represents “the world as it is.” The train safely passes, but it all seems awfully easy. Musically inclined caregivers who feel confident belting out the lyrics may find this a useful title for peace-themed storytimes, but the overall depictions of peace and unity feel superficial at best.

Not exactly first-class travel. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305399-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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