Beautiful, honest, complex.

MY TWO BORDER TOWNS

A father and son run errands across the U.S.–Mexico border.

Early on Saturday, the boy (who's never named) prepares his “special bag” to bring to Mexico for his friends. Crossing from Texas to Tamaulipas, the duo drives across town and over the bridge into a twin town where Spanish is just as frequently heard, but English is spoken less. Before tackling their errands, father and son stop to fuel up with café de olla and chocolate caliente, respectively. They visit the jewelry shop, gather groceries and supplies at the abarrotes, play soccer with cousins, and pick up medicine at the pharmacy. On their way back home to the United States, the protagonist encounters his friends at the bridge: displaced people from the Caribbean and Central America living in limbo on the border between two towns and two countries. Taking advantage of the slow pace of the traffic on the bridge, the boy exits his father’s truck, bringing the gathered supplies and toys to those in wait. In what initially comes across as a story of a sweet visit to a Mexican town to run some errands, Bowles seamlessly weaves in some of the complexities of living on the border. He fearlessly introduces the complex issues surrounding the presence of refugees waiting to be admitted into the United States and candidly portrays the everyday lives of families who span the border, creating a unique cosmos in this space. Meza’s background illustrations around town imbue the pages with Mexico’s vibrance. Bowles translates his own text into Spanish in a simultaneously publishing edition. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Beautiful, honest, complex. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11104-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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