Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America...

MY FOURTH OF JULY

An exuberant, old-time–y celebration of the Fourth of July.

An energetic young child breathlessly narrates the day, from waking up bursting with excitement to conking out after the fireworks. In between, Spinelli’s nostalgic narrative hits all the expected notes. The child helps prepare the picnic (hot dogs and cherry pie, natch) and loads it into the little red wagon. A train festooned with bunting and pulled by a steam engine crosses Main Street. Once at the park, the family picnics and partakes in all the traditional Fourth of July activities, including face painting, sack racing, a concert in the bandstand, a visit to the zoo (this small-town park is extremely well-appointed), and, of course, the fireworks. Spinelli’s present-tense text combines a childlike voice (“Mama hands me a banana. I’m so excited I forgot to eat breakfast”) with poetic fervor (“My eyes cannot hold the wonders I see. My heart is cheering”). The only nods to patriotism are the abundant flags and mention of standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Day’s small town is a Norman Rockwell–esque place of white frame houses and unleashed, well-behaved dogs. The narrator and family present white, while the narrator’s best friend and some of the other festivalgoers are people of color.

Despite somewhat inclusive visuals, this book can’t help feeling like it’s stuck in amber. For a true celebration of America and its diversity, opt for Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Jason Chin’s Pie Is for Sharing (2018). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4288-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

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THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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