An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition.

AMBITIOUS GIRL

A little girl tells readers—and herself—all about the importance of being ambitious.

The story starts with a wordless illustration of a little brown-skinned girl with textured black curls stopping to watch television sets displayed in a store window. The TVs display a Black woman confidently speaking at a microphone. But while the girl appears impressed, the television commentators are not. They call the politician too “assertive,” “ambitious,” “confident,” and “proud.” The little girl looks devastated, but the politician on TV is not. In response to this criticism, she declares that no one can define us and that it’s up to us to define ourselves. The remaining pages are a poetic ode to ambition, beginning with the girl’s own insecurities about being told, repeatedly, to be quieter, duller, or more patient. Like the politician she admires on TV, the unnamed protagonist does not let this criticism stop her. Instead, she reflects on what she has—her supportive family, for example, and ambitious women who’ve gone before (depicted as the suffragists, Shirley Chisholm, and Mae Jemison)—and who she wants to be. Generally, the rhyming text is buoyant with hope, although some concepts feel on the abstract side for children: “And if we fail, it’s a chance to disrupt.” The soft watercolor illustrations amplify the book’s underlying messages of love and hope, filling the backgrounds with a multiracial cast of women diverse in age, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.7-by-16.4-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45.1% of actual size.)

An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-22969-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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