An engaging, beautiful, and memorable book.

SUGAR IN MILK

Two stories overlap in this book, one many generations old and another modern, illustrating both the power of kindness and a shared humanity between immigrants and their new communities.

When a young immigrant girl first comes to the United States, she feels alone and misses her friends, family, and cats back home. The care of her aunt and uncle and all of her new books and toys do not help. Then one day, her aunt tells her a story that changes everything: A group of people from Persia escaped persecution and landed on an Indian kingdom’s shore. “Our land is too crowded,” said this land’s king upon their arrival, “and [they] speak a strange and different language I do not understand.” He went to the seashore to order them to leave, but since neither understood the other’s tongue, he showed the refugees a glass of milk, full to the very top, and illustrated that it could take no more. The travelers were devastated, but then their leader carefully added one spoonful of sugar to the milk, without spilling it. This made it sweeter and convinced the king to let the newcomer’s stay. Exquisite spreads illustrate the book, full of delicate ornamentation for the ancient Parsi tale and cultural diversity on the streets of New York for the modern one. (The protagonist and her aunt and uncle have brown skin, and she and her auntie have shiny, long black hair.) The story changes the young girl’s perspective, helping her to embrace her new home and reminding her to lead the way with kindness.

An engaging, beautiful, and memorable book. (Picture book. 4-9.)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9519-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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