An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition.

AMBITIOUS GIRL

A little girl tells readers—and herself—all about the importance of being ambitious.

The story starts with a wordless illustration of a little brown-skinned girl with textured black curls stopping to watch television sets displayed in a store window. The TVs display a Black woman confidently speaking at a microphone. But while the girl appears impressed, the television commentators are not. They call the politician too “assertive,” “ambitious,” “confident,” and “proud.” The little girl looks devastated, but the politician on TV is not. In response to this criticism, she declares that no one can define us and that it’s up to us to define ourselves. The remaining pages are a poetic ode to ambition, beginning with the girl’s own insecurities about being told, repeatedly, to be quieter, duller, or more patient. Like the politician she admires on TV, the unnamed protagonist does not let this criticism stop her. Instead, she reflects on what she has—her supportive family, for example, and ambitious women who’ve gone before (depicted as the suffragists, Shirley Chisholm, and Mae Jemison)—and who she wants to be. Generally, the rhyming text is buoyant with hope, although some concepts feel on the abstract side for children: “And if we fail, it’s a chance to disrupt.” The soft watercolor illustrations amplify the book’s underlying messages of love and hope, filling the backgrounds with a multiracial cast of women diverse in age, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.7-by-16.4-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45.1% of actual size.)

An inspiring, rhyming ode to female ambition. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-22969-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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