A joyous, heartwarming, sweet—and essential—update.

UNCLE BOBBY'S WEDDING

Uncle Bobby is getting married—but his niece Chloe doesn’t know if that is a good idea.

When Uncle Bobby announces at the first picnic of the summer that he and “his friend, Jamie,” are getting married, everyone is happy except Chloe. When she expresses her concern to her mother, Mom says she should talk to Uncle Bobby, who reassures Chloe that they will still have plenty of fun together—and then sets out to prove it. Bobby and Jamie take Chloe to the ballet and joke afterward at a soda shop. They go sailing, and Jamie is the first to jump in when Chloe tumbles out of the boat. Roasting marshmallows over a campfire, Chloe happily says, “I wish both of you were my uncles”—and of course they tell her she will get that wish. Flower girl Chloe helps out at the wedding, and they all dance the night away. Brannen reworks the text of her out-of-print and oft-challenged 2008 title to good effect. The tale of a child’s uncertainty and jealousy at her uncle’s wedding someone who just happens to be another man and the family’s carefree celebration of that union remains essentially the same. Soto’s bright, friendly cartoons, however, depict a diverse human cast—Uncle Bobby presents White and Jamie presents Black—representing a quantum leap forward over the original’s anthropomorphic guinea pigs. Chloe has light beige skin; her mother presents White, and her father’s skin is a shade darker than Chloe's.

A joyous, heartwarming, sweet—and essential—update. (Picture book. 2-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1008-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America.

WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

A Black man teaches two Black children about their roots.

“Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?” These questions open the book as a man leads an unnamed boy and girl, presumably his children, into “Remembrance Park,” where they gaze up at Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams, and Martin Luther King Jr., who appear as cloudy apparitions in the sky. This imagery gives the misleading impression that Abrams, very much alive, is in heaven with the other figures, who are all deceased. Later on in the story, another potentially delusive illustration shows the main characters visiting a Mount Rushmore–like monument showcasing Kamala Harris alongside departed Black icons. After highlighting inspirational individuals who are not descended from people enslaved in the United States, the illustrations paradoxically depict enslaved Black Americans working in cotton fields. The portrayal of slavery is benevolent, and the images of civil rights marches and sit-ins likewise lack the necessary emotional depth. The text’s statement that “you are from the country where time moves with ease and where kindness is cherished” erases centuries of African American struggle in the face of racist violence and systemic exclusion. The book tries to instill pride in African Americans, who continue to struggle with a lack of shared identity or common experience; ultimately, it stumbles in its messaging and attempts to turn an extremely complicated, sometimes controversial topic into a warm and fuzzy picture book. All characters are Black.

A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308285-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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