Title notwithstanding, not the most welcoming of books.


An energetic series of haiku celebrates the first day of school.

Some describe individuals: “Angelica” is “Like a red rocket / Flashing across a blue sky: / Her hair in the wind” as she runs to catch the bus. Some orient readers to their classrooms: “Name Tags” are “At every desk, / A chair with tennis-ball feet, / A place just for you.” Some capture the experience: In crowded “Hallways,” younger children watch as “A thick herd of cows / Tramples past, smelly and loud. / Fifth graders are tall.” The individual poems’ success as haiku vary. Some, like “Hallways” and “Growing Up,” in which a mother bids goodbye to a fledgling kindergartner as a “small / Bird flies from its nest,” nail the form; others are more patterned, short narratives than anything else. Oddly, for a book that purports welcome, a mean-spirited streak surfaces. Student “Harold” is described thus: “Like a duck, one boy / Waddles down the hall, quacking. / Yikes, he’s in my class!” Another poem celebrates a “Prank,” in which an older child who knows the ways of a particular water fountain “smirks” while turning the knob to splash the face of the unsuspecting younger child. The kid laughs instead of crying, but it feels gratuitous. GrandPré’s busy, colorful paintings use primary colors to render this racially diverse school’s cheerfully chaotic first day.

Title notwithstanding, not the most welcoming of books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-15588-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.


This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...


A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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