This all-too-common childhood experience is dramatized with an emotional honesty that, refreshingly, skirts sentimentality.

THE NEW FRIEND

The devoted friendship of two children ends without warning.

The narrator uses the past tense to describe an easygoing, intimate friendship: “I had a friend / a dear friend / with long brown hair.” The two delighted in playing outdoors: picking wildflowers, wading in the brook, and talking and reading together underneath a tree. But one day the narrator calls for her, and “she [isn’t] there.” A trip through the woods reveals that she is with a different friend, and this new duo does many of the same things she once did with the narrator. The narrator grieves—but dreams of a new friendship. Zolotow’s text, originally published in 1968 (with illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully), sensitively captures the trauma of abruptly losing a friend, never diminishing the pain of such a betrayal. Yet the story does not allow the protagonist to wallow in self-pity and instead ends on a moderately hopeful note: The narrator, though still sad, considers a future in which “I won’t care” about having lost this friendship. Chaud’s illustrations feature a verdant, richly colored world as the children run and play in the woods. Playful animal face masks the pair enjoys are used to great effect: When loyalties are abandoned, the narrator disconsolately watches the two new friends wear them, and an enigmatic rabbit mask conceals the identity of the narrator’s imagined new friend. All children are depicted as White.

This all-too-common childhood experience is dramatized with an emotional honesty that, refreshingly, skirts sentimentality. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-990252-01-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Milky Way

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture...

HAPPY DREAMER

Displaying his distinctive voice and images, Reynolds celebrates the joys and challenges of being a creative spirit.

“I am a HAPPY DREAMER,” cheers a thin, spiky-haired white boy as he flies skyward, streaming yellow swirls of sparkles. This little “dreamer maximus” piles on the energy with colors and noise and the joy-filled exuberance he has for life. “Wish you could HEAR inside my head / TRUMPETY, ZIGZAG JAZZ!” With clear honesty, he shares that the world tells him to be quiet, to focus and pay attention. Like a roller-coaster ride, Reynolds’ text and illustrations capture the energetic side of creativity and the gloom of cleaning up the messes that come with it while providing a wide vocabulary to describe emotional brilliance and resilience. The protagonist makes no apologies for expressing his feelings and embracing his distinct view of the world. This makes him happy. The book finishes with a question to readers: “What kind of dreamer are you?” Hinging outward, the double-page spread opens to four panels, each with a dozen examples of multiracial children being happy and being dreamers, showing inspiring possibilities for exploration. The best way, of course, is to “just BE YOU.”

A sweet gift to praise spirited individuality, this choice encourages readers to dream big. Let those sparkles fly! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-86501-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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