A lovely, empowering book about having the courage to express one’s individuality.

JOHN'S TURN

A young White boy shares his secret talent with his classmates for the first time.

An unnamed, unidentified narrator, clearly one of the titular protagonist’s schoolmates, explains that every week at Friday Assembly, one student gets to perform for the whole school, an activity called “Sharing Gifts.” Once, Tina played her tuba; another time, Jessie did some magic; Carol delivered a stand-up routine. Now it’s John’s turn, and boy does he look nervous. In short, declarative sentences the text describes John’s preparations for his act. Once on stage, he hesitates as some kids laugh at the musical track accompanying his performance—“strings, violins and things, and then maybe flutes”—then it’s showtime. A succession of wordless, double-page spreads uses continuous narration to showcase the various poses and steps of John’s glorious ballet recital. His facial expression and body language morph as fear gives way to a joyful sense of accomplishment. Young readers will love John’s classmates’ reactions at the ending. Berube’s simple ink-and-paint illustrations have minimal background details, allowing readers to focus squarely on John and his emotions. It is truly wonderful to see a boy character in a children’s book so enthusiastic about, and accomplished at, ballet. Any child, though, who has a talent to share or struggles with performance anxiety will find a role model in John. The children are nicely diverse racially. Their teachers present White.

A lovely, empowering book about having the courage to express one’s individuality. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0395-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.

THE QUEEN OF KINDERGARTEN

Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Making friends isn’t always this easy and convenient.

BUDDY'S NEW BUDDY

From the Growing With Buddy series , Vol. 3

How do you make a new friend when an old one moves away?

Buddy (from Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School, 2019, etc.) is feeling lonely. His best friend just moved across town. To make matters worse, there is a field trip coming up, and Buddy needs a bus partner. His sister, Lady, has some helpful advice for making a new pal: “You just need to find something you have in common.” Buddy loves the game Robo Chargers and karate. Surely there is someone else who does, too! Unfortunately, there isn’t. However, when a new student arrives (one day later) and asks everyone to call her Sunny instead of Alison, Buddy gets excited. No one uses his given name, either; they just call him Buddy. He secretly whispers his “real, official name” to Sunny at lunch—an indication that a true friendship is being formed. The rest of the story plods merrily along, all pieces falling exactly into place (she even likes Robo Chargers!), accompanied by Bowers’ digital art, a mix of spot art and full-bleed illustrations. Friendship-building can be an emotionally charged event in a child’s life—young readers will certainly see themselves in Buddy’s plight—but, alas, there is not much storytelling magic to be found. Buddy and his family are White, Sunny and Mr. Teacher are Black, and Buddy’s other classmates are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Making friends isn’t always this easy and convenient. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30709-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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