A lovely story about courage and community with a darling protagonist.

THE VERY LAST CASTLE

A young girl named Ibb transforms her town when she dares to enter its very last castle, which no one has entered since anyone can remember.

Ibb wears stripes and polka dots, princess dresses, tutus and butterfly wings, and big yellow boots. She walks by the castle every day. It is the last castle, and it stands in the middle of her town, with a guard who watches passers-by from the tower. The townspeople, never having entered the castle, speculate about what is inside. “Monsters.” “Giants.” “Snakes.” Ibb wonders if it’s something else. One day, she floats across the moat and knocks on the big door. She is scared away. But soon, an envelope arrives in the mail, inviting her to the castle. Everyone tells her to stay away, but even though she is scared, Ibb wants to know what is inside. The guard welcomes her and shows her around. What he wants is for someone “brave” and “curious” to take his place. Ibb thinks and decides that she’ll help him if he lets the townspeople into the castle too. It turns out to be a win-win for everyone. The illustrations, in pen and ink and watercolor, render Ibb, a young brown girl with afro puffs who shows her fellow townspeople about bravery and kindness, and her story truly memorable. The guard and most of the other adults in Ibb’s life are white; a friend named Alex also presents black.

A lovely story about courage and community with a darling protagonist. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2574-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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