An uplifting story that will inspire kids, especially brown girls and boys, to dream.

THE YEAR WE LEARNED TO FLY

An intergenerational family story of freedom.

A girl with a big, curly Afro and her little brother, both light brown–skinned, live in a high-rise city apartment building. Because of stormy summer weather, they must stay inside. As a remedy for boredom and bickering, their grandmother advises them to “use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours.” And they do, throughout all four seasons of the year. Colorful butterflies and a vibrant little bird that often appear flying around the siblings represent their freedom, which is only ever as far away as an open book or the doorways of their imaginations. López illustrates the inside of the family’s apartment with drab, muted colors that emphasize the children’s confinement. In contrast, the outdoor scenes, illustrated primarily in pastels, exude luminosity and convey the youngsters’ exuberance. Rather than being selfish with their ability to fly, the sister and brother share it with the neighborhood kids. The protagonist/narrator shares that her grandmother learned to fly from “the people who came before,” who were “brought here on huge ships, / their wrists and ankles cuffed in iron.” This recalls Virginia Hamilton’s legend of The People Who Could Fly (1985), referenced by López in one illustration and discussed by Woodson in her author’s note. Some readers will notice an intertextual reference to the pair’s previous title, The Day You Begin (2018).The ebullient mixed-media artwork explodes with color and extends the richness of the text. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An uplifting story that will inspire kids, especially brown girls and boys, to dream. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-399-54553-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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