A closer-to-perfect pairing couldn’t be imagined. Everyone wins! (Picture book. 4-10)

THE LEGEND OF ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

Peer through the mists and learn the origin of the game that has resolved playground disputes beyond number.

“Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard, there lived a warrior named Rock.” Rock travels far and wide searching for an adversary that might best him. The clothespin fails in battle, and the tangy sweetness of the apricot is easily squashed. Meanwhile, in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office and the Kitchen Realm, respectively, Paper and Scissors set out on similar quests. Each trounces every foe. The likes of Computer Printer cannot stand against Paper (paper jam!). And the Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets are snipped into submission by Scissors. Then Rock meets Scissors and thrashes her. She is pleased, but Rock feels he might never find his challenger until Paper arrives, uttering the fighting words “Hi there.” The rest is history. Daywalt’s silly tale unfolds in hilariously overblown text that is further melodramatized with ample and emphatic use of various display types. It is deliciously illustrated in true Rex style with wackily anthropomorphic inanimate objects and action-packed scenes. Rock is particularly funny, depicted as a small, Easter Island–type boulder with an outsized personality. Cheeky humor and prideful asides will have listeners in stitches.

A closer-to-perfect pairing couldn’t be imagined. Everyone wins! (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243889-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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