A lovely story about soccer, gender and hope.

SOCCER STAR

A soccer story with a gender-equality twist.

The sense of place is established from the title page with an illustration of the young protagonist flying a kite in his Brazilian neighborhood. Paulo loves to play soccer and one day hopes to be a famous soccer star. While he walks his sister, Maria, to school, they practice soccer moves. Paulo then makes his way to the fishing boat where he works, greeting his teammates along the way; they, like him, work during the day and play soccer afterward. There’s a lull in pacing in the middle of the story, but it quickly picks up with the “big game.” While Paulo respects Maria’s soccer skills, his teammates won’t let her play—until one of them is injured, and she then scores. Alarcão expertly captures the motion of Maria’s triumphant, scoring bicycle kick, but it’s too bad there is no illustration that shows the team explicitly welcoming her into the fold. That’s a minor quibble, as it’s downright refreshing to see illustrations that realistically relay the diversity of shades found among Brazilians. Javaherbin deftly handles Paulo and Maria’s poverty with honesty while simultaneously refraining from sugarcoating, overemphasizing or romanticizing it. Perhaps most importantly, Javaherbin shows that being poor doesn’t stop people from having lives and dreams.

A lovely story about soccer, gender and hope. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6056-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

LET'S DANCE!

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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