The authors’ names will sell it, but it’s the pictures that sing.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

The lyrics of the classic Beatles song accompany an illustrated story in Cole’s (Spot & Dot, 2019) latest creation.

Two children sit near the front of their school bus, on opposite sides of the aisle, looking wistfully out their respective windows, while the crowd of kids in the back of the bus chat and laugh together. As the children exit the school bus, the two hang back from the crowd. At lunch, they notice each other; at recess, the blond, white child plays a guitar while the puffy-haired, darker-hued child watches, smiling. By the next spread, they are singing together in a bedroom and have developed a warm friendship. But soon, the blond child must move away, and each is alone again. They manage their loneliness with letters and phone calls, and, finally, they prepare for what becomes a spectacular visit. Most of the world is drawn in black and white, with touches of color to highlight the main characters and their connection; blue skies dominate the final spreads. Cole’s detailed style effectively creates a busy world in which individuals seek the comfort of friendship. The lyrics only loosely connect to the pictures, and parts of the text may seem obscure to children unfamiliar with the song. Adult readers will likely be happy to share the classic with children, though, and the visual story is strong enough to carry at least a full reading.

The authors’ names will sell it, but it’s the pictures that sing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2983-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.

DOUBLE PUPPY TROUBLE

From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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