This is not a subtle book, but its heart is absolutely in the right place.

MAX THE CHAMPION

A sports-obsessed boy makes his way through his day in winning style.

No matter the endeavor, Max imagines himself in a competition. As he races downstairs to breakfast, in his head he is running a road race. As he zooms through writing lessons in school, he imagines throwing a giant, pencil-shaped javelin. Asquith’s active, spindly lines and licks of watercolor include at least one person (usually a kid) in both Max’s real life and his dream world with some seemingly limiting physical condition. This lets readers appreciate that if you have a guide dog, that shouldn’t stop you from tobogganing, or a wheelchair from taking to the ski slope, or a leg brace from a turn at bat, or an occluder from bike racing. Acceptance is both the issue and the nonissue here; Max sees no barriers to his friends’ participation in his imaginary games—or his own (Max evidently has asthma). The actual plot is rather flimsy, with Max’s school winning an entire tournament in just one page—but that’s not the point.

This is not a subtle book, but its heart is absolutely in the right place. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84780-388-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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An accessible introduction to coding rules that also easily entertains.

HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE

A girl named Pearl programs a (rust-proof) robot to help her build sand castles in this new addition to the Girls Who Code organization’s book program.

The last day of summer vacation is Pearl’s last chance to build a sand castle. All her prior attempts have fallen victim to comic mishaps (such as a “moat” contributed by dog Ada Puglace). For backup, she brings her robot, Pascal, with whom she breaks down the full task—building the sand castle—into small problems: finding a place to build via specific instructions, gathering sand via a sequence (and more efficiently with a loop), and decorating the castle via an IF-THEN-ELSE statement. After she works out the kinks, the oncoming tide throws Pearl for a new loop—literally, as she reuses her previous computer code while adding a moat feature to handle the tide. The cheerful mixed-media illustrations and warm color palette fit both the subject matter and the can-do spirit of the book. The computer science terms are demonstrated in clear, concise ways, allowing them to be mined for humor (such as Pascal’s attempts to place the sand castle in unsuitable places until Pearl learns to be very specific), and serve the story without feeling obtrusive or too much like lessons. The backmatter gives fuller explanations of the terms. Pearl has brown skin and textured, black pigtails, and the other beachgoers are racially diverse.

An accessible introduction to coding rules that also easily entertains. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-29198-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A bright, bold picture-book biography that challenges conceptions of masculinity and strength.

STRONG

The first openly gay strongman overhauls stereotypes.

Whether opening “the TIGHTEST pickle jars” or carrying many packed grocery bags into the house all at once, Rob Kearney is a strong kid. As he grows up, he finds his calling in strength sports. A teacher introduces 17-year-old Rob to the Strongman competition, kindling his dream of becoming a weightlifting champion. First, he trains to lift 150 pounds, then 200, then 300, then 400—the equivalent of “more than 800 STUFFED RAINBOW UNICORNS.” Despite all of his training, Rob flounders at his first big competition since he doesn’t feel quite right in his “boring” and “bleak” weightlifting gear. That changes when Rob falls in love with Joey, who pushes Rob to wear whatever “bright, bold colors” he wants. But can Rob win the title of “strongest person in North America?” Real-life strongman Kearney and LGBTQ+ parenting expert Rosswood team up to create this positive, affirming picture-book memoir. Although one scene depicts an instance of dress code discrimination, the story maintains a sunny tone. Certain words are bolded throughout the text for emphasis, particularly those related to Rob’s impressive feats. Rob and Joey are both White and have mohawks, but Chanani’s colorful digital illustrations depict ethnically diverse spectators. Backmatter delves more deeply into strongman events and—staying within the gender binary—mentions the existence of “a separate strongwoman division.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A bright, bold picture-book biography that challenges conceptions of masculinity and strength. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture-book biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-29290-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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