This book was so close to soaring!

FLYING HIGH

THE STORY OF GYMNASTICS CHAMPION SIMONE BILES

Simone Biles enchanted the nation at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and this book aims to introduce her to young readers.

Readers watch as little Simone and her three siblings are placed in a foster home, then separated, before she and one sister are adopted by their biological grandparents. Simone is always in motion from toddlerhood, “shooting off the vault / like a rocket blast” when she discovers gymnastics. There is a simple beauty in showing how Biles’ rise to Olympic gold medalist was not smooth. Children will be saddened by her failure at making the national team and heartened by her determination to keep pursuing her dream. Meadows emphasizes resilience, demonstrating how Biles met each failure with persistence, getting back up and trying again. Glenn’s clean line-and-color illustrations are reminiscent of animation, at their best in the many vignettes of Biles in motion. One double-page spread, in which 10 separate images trace Biles doing her trademark double layout with a half-twist landing, is electrifying. The text does not equal the illustrations’ effectiveness; scansion is sometimes spotty, and the jaunty rhythms are at odds with the challenges and drive depicted. Its lightness seems particularly inapt when juxtaposed against Biles’ powerful muscularity. Two pages of backmatter include a few more facts and selected sources.

This book was so close to soaring! (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20566-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A delightful story of love and hope.

OUR SUBWAY BABY

Families are formed everywhere—including large metropolitan mass-transit systems!

Baby Kevin, initially known as “Danny ACE Doe,” was found in the New York City’s 14th Street subway station, which serves the A-C-E lines, by one of his future fathers, Danny. Kevin’s other father, Pete (author Mercurio), serves as the narrator, explaining how the two men came to add the newborn to their family. Readers are given an abridged version of the story from Danny and Pete’s point of view as they work to formally adopt Kevin and bring him home in time for Christmas. The story excels at highlighting the determination of loving fathers while still including realistic moments of hesitation, doubt, and fear that occur for new and soon-to-be parents. The language is mindful of its audience (for example using “piggy banks” instead of “bank accounts” to discuss finances) while never patronizing young readers. Espinosa’s posterlike artwork—which presents the cleanest New York readers are ever likely to see—extends the text and makes use of unexpected angles to heighten emotional scenes and moments of urgency. The diversity of skin tones, ages, and faces (Danny and Pete both present white, and Kevin has light brown skin) befits the Big Apple. Family snapshots and a closing author’s note emphasize that the most important thing in any family is love. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 43% of actual size.)

A delightful story of love and hope. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42754-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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