Despite the mildly unusual twist, it treads familiar territory and not particularly well.

DO NOT BRING YOUR DRAGON TO RECESS

As if starting school weren’t worry enough, new students need to fret about classmates who bring their oversized reptilian pets along.

“The rules of the playground are hard for a beast. / He’ll break the first one as soon as released.” This proves to be the case. A yellow one bumps into the principal in his haste to get outside. A green one’s forelegs are too short for the monkey bars, so she pitches a fit until she realizes she can use her tail instead…and bends the whole structure. A long, thin, blue dragon pushes the merry-go-round. “He’ll start out slow but soon he will run. / Then the ride becomes more scary than fun.” (The illustration for this is particularly amusing.) A final, purple dragon is very well-behaved, but excitement brings out the flames. Still, the child who brought the yellow one makes a case that the dragon is smart and can learn and listen, and the principal, a woman of color, says that he’s welcome, a message that few, if any, books in this vein echo. Gassman’s rhythms and rhymes are sometimes rough and don’t always scan well. Many of the figures have white rather than black outlines, giving them the appearance of cutouts laid on top of the background in the brightly colored, Saturday morning–cartoonish illustrations. The racially diverse students and teachers include a child with glasses, one with an arm in a sling, and one in a wheelchair.

Despite the mildly unusual twist, it treads familiar territory and not particularly well. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68436-035-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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