A sweet and goofy addition to the unicorns-embrace-their-uniqueness shelf.

IT'S OKAY TO BE A UNICORN!

Cornelius J. Sparklesteed knows he’s different, but he’s not sure that’s OK.

On the isle of Hoofington, the Hoofapalooza festival celebrates “everything horse-tastic.” Haberdasher Cornelius finds himself called to Mayor Mare’s office; the mayor wants the “most un-unicorny hat” that Cornelius can make for him for Hoofapalooza. You see, the horses of Hoofington say some pretty mean things about unicorns (“Their horns are too sharp!”; “They fart rainbows!”). That’s why Cornelius always hides his horn under a hat. The hat Cornelius makes for the mayor is so fantastic that Mare asks Cornelius to perform at Hoofapalooza. On Monday, Cornelius meets his doughnut-making friend Tilly and suggests some creative ideas for new flavors. On Tuesday, he meets painter Hablo and suggests rainbows for his Hoofapalooza mural. Wednesday, he offers tips to DJ Salad. And all week, Cornelius works on his costume, making it bright and sparkly, and broods about the mean things he’s heard around the island. As he prepares to perform, he sees his creative friends have used and improved on his ideas…and he puts on the pranciest of dance performances with a hats-off finish to the astonished cheers of the audience. Tharp’s good-natured fable is bright and rainbow-y, with equines painted in fanciful colors. Its lightness and pep present a weighty subject in a way that will resonate with any who have felt “other.”

A sweet and goofy addition to the unicorns-embrace-their-uniqueness shelf. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31132-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

Our Verdict

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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