A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark.


A stuffed animal and a stick travel around the world by mistake.

Huggie, a blue stuffed animal, and Stick, a wooden stick with a face, arms, and legs, fall out of their boy owner’s backpack into the ocean. They narrate in diary entries, taking turns. Stick’s an eternal optimist, cheerful and oblivious, calling pirates “nice guys in super awesome hats.” In contrast, Huggie’s grumpy, realistic, and perpetually annoyed. Spencer’s pen-and-ink–and-digital art is full of sharp lines and angles, emphasizing exaggerated perspectives and expressions. As the accidental adventurers hop from continent to continent, the places they visit fall into disturbing categories. Australia, Asia, and Africa feature wilderness and animals but neither humans nor industrialization, while Europe and North America feature humans, industrialization, and news media. South America (in text, not pictures) has people who use Stick “as a blowgun to shoot at monkeys and sloths all morning.” Such coding breathes new life into old, inexcusable messages about race and culture. Humor for the butt-jokes crowd and playfulness (“sharks are allergic to stuffed animals”) can’t outweigh the deplorable Western-centric attitudes and one massive geographical misstep: The protagonists fall off an African coast on the right-hand side of a spread into the Atlantic. This misleads readers who don’t know geography yet and confuses those who do. (An only-somewhat-clarifying map on the closing endpapers does not mitigate this fault.) Moreover, the suspension of disbelief demanded by the story is so staggeringly large that it’s distancing.

A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17276-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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An honest look at motherhood in the contemporary era and a sweet tribute to the bond between mother and child.


Grammy-winning, multiplatinum singer/songwriter Rowland teams up with California teacher McKay to celebrate busy moms.

This picture book highlights a mother’s frequent longing to be with her child when life’s demands pull them apart. The story takes us through a busy Black mom’s week: She goes to work (at a construction site where she appears to be an engineer), works from home on her son’s sick day, takes him to a museum, and shares domestic duties with her Black male partner, who is a nurse. She encounters many bumps in the road that will be familiar to working parents. Each day, she gently reassures her son with a lyrical refrain: “Always with you, / Always with me, / Mommy and child / Together we’ll be.” This tender story, narrated in the voice of a mother addressing her child, pulls at the heartstrings. Liem’s digital artwork uses a warm palette and has a calming quality. The characters’ body language and heartfelt facial expressions are spot-on. This book will resonate with any mom who knows the heartache of having to say goodbye to their child or who has faced the teary-eyed frustration of a youngster experiencing separation anxiety. Young readers, on the other hand, will find solace in the reassuring narrative. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An honest look at motherhood in the contemporary era and a sweet tribute to the bond between mother and child. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46551-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.


Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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