Exuberant and loving; sure to incite giggles from kids and teary smiles from adults and possibly to unseat Oh, the Places...

SOMETIMES YOU FLY

This celebration of young people and the families that support them encourages persistence as children stumble through inevitable difficulties en route to triumph.

The opening page shows an exhausted-looking mother baking in a messy kitchen while the text reads “Before the cake….” The reverse side of the page is wordless, simply presenting the image of a jubilant child’s first birthday party, the guest of honor toddling along with cake-covered face and hands. The majority of the book follows this same pattern—a “before the” phrase paired with an image of struggle that accompanies the specific stage of life and a wordless, joyful illustration of the payoff on the verso. The book spans the milestones of childhood, from feeding oneself to first love and, eventually, graduation. The remaining few pages offer words of encouragement, reminding readers that failures and heartbreak are unavoidable but any setback can be an opportunity for growth. The humorous and emotionally evocative illustrations include culturally nonspecific characters with a variety of skin tones. The pages that depict a challenge are backgrounded by open, blank space, while the pages of success are fully illustrated, visually contrasting the feelings of frustration and isolation that can accompany the work of learning a new skill with the satisfaction of achievement.

Exuberant and loving; sure to incite giggles from kids and teary smiles from adults and possibly to unseat Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as a perennial graduation gift. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-547-63390-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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