Hood and Lundquist? Mission accomplished. And grown-ups with fledgling spies? Add some secret-agent supplies to your...

MISSION: BACK TO SCHOOL

TOP-SECRET INFORMATION

In a clever take on the back-to-school theme, Hood presents the first day of school as a secret agent’s mission, with steps to complete.

“Your mission? To begin the first phase of training in your hunt for intelligence.” Step No.1 is to suit up. The story follows multiple kids. There’s one searching the laundry for a favorite shirt, another who lost a shoe, and still another who wears every favorite piece of clothing at once—tiara, tutu, cowboy boots. Step 2: rendezvous at vehicle checkpoint. This includes those who are walking, biking, or getting to school by bus or car. The intelligence officer (teacher) hands out IDs (nametags), and then agents must build diplomatic relations (say hello in seven different languages, including Robot) and get debriefed (circle time). From subjects studied and school rules to the basic schedule and a mishap (an escaped class pet), the 19 steps pretty much cover it all, albeit in wonderful tongue-in-cheek secret-agent language that kids will really enjoy. Lundquist’s artwork does the heavy lifting, as there is no text other than the steps and a few speech bubbles. The watercolor illustrations feature diverse children, a white male teacher, and even a set of twins (one wears glasses)—aka double agents. This will not only calm new students’ fears, but give them a unique way to look at their own first days of school.

Hood and Lundquist? Mission accomplished. And grown-ups with fledgling spies? Add some secret-agent supplies to your shopping lists. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-38471-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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