This gentle, moving lesson in perseverance will touch young readers, especially the dog lovers.

HEY, DOG

A round-headed, bespectacled kid finds a stray dog and does everything to earn the dog’s trust.

Arriving home from school, the narrator discovers a dog crouching in a bush in the backyard. When the dog flees, the narrator puts out water in a Frisbee for it and later provides a quilt and leftover meatballs, hoping the dog will return. Next day, the meatballs are gone, but the dog still hides. Noticing that the skinny, cringing dog has scars and no tags, the thoughtful child asks Mom why anyone would harm a dog, and she “fiercely” replies, “Some people are not as good as dogs.” After more patient conversations with the dog and more Frisbees with food, the protagonist’s efforts are finally rewarded. Referring to the stray as “Dog,” the child tells the story with a tone of urgency yet in a direct, easy-to-follow manner. Compassion for Dog shines through the text, strongly reinforced in the simple illustrations, drawn manually and colored in Photoshop. Nelson is a master at capturing nuance in facial expression and body language, both human and canine. As the unnamed narrator patiently, lovingly cares for Dog, the emotions of both are clear, and readers will cheer Dog’s transition from fear to trust as he gradually emerges from the bush. The protagonist and Mom—no other family members are depicted—both present white.

This gentle, moving lesson in perseverance will touch young readers, especially the dog lovers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58089-877-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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