Practical and empowering for young ones learning how to emotionally attend to themselves and others.

I AM LOVE

A BOOK OF COMPASSION

From the I Am... series

In the latest I Am… series installment by yoga teacher Verde and illustrator Reynolds, a child describes how to share love with those struggling with hard emotions.

A thin, light-brown–skinned kid with blue and pink hair spots another child “going through a storm / of hurt and unfairness, of anger and sadness”—how should they respond? With hands on their heart, the candy-haired protagonist “find[s] the answer: I have compassion… / I am love.” The gentle narrative follows a simple formula in which different ways of attending to others are named along with a simple statement of what love can be: “Love is comfort”; “Love is effort”; “Love is tiny gestures.” Emphasizing Verde’s common themes of mindfulness and emotional presence, the main character demonstrates expressions of love ranging from keeping their own “mind and body safe and healthy” to careful listening to others. Supporting characters in this jewel-toned meditation include a white kid with long blond hair, a black child with a curly purple afropuff, and a tan-skinned youth with short black hair and a colorful taqiyah. To elaborate on the benefits of “opening and expanding” the heart (both literally and emotionally), Verde provides extensive backmatter, including yoga poses and a heart meditation. These addenda enrich the narrative and provide useful context for the relationship skills outlined in the text.

Practical and empowering for young ones learning how to emotionally attend to themselves and others. (Picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3726-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2019

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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