This cheerful meditation on starting over features a character that’s hard not to love

MELENA'S JUBILEE

Little Melena learns the power of a fresh start.

The little black girl wakes up “with a song in her heart” before remembering that yesterday was not such a good day: she forgot to put her toys away, so Gramma’s friend tripped, breaking Mama’s favorite vase. But “I never let the sun go down on my anger,” Gramma says, and Mama tells her she’s “got a fresh start.” This becomes the conscious theme for her interactions all day long, as she decides that hitting her older brother because he thumped her last week isn’t in the spirit of a fresh start and that pooling money for a hot-fudge sundae split several ways is preferable to demanding that Gavin repay a loan. In Melena, Elliott creates a thoughtful, upbeat character whose impulses are convincingly childlike. In between her musings on fresh starts, she plays with her friends (a multiracial group) and helps her grandmother harvest lunch from the garden. The text is on the long side, but it encompasses diversions that both flesh out Melena’s character and keep it from feeling overwhelmingly didactic. Boyd’s bright, multimedia illustrations depict a warm, loving family and a cheery urban neighborhood but occasionally look muddy and do not significantly extend the text. An author’s note provides context on the concept of jubilee—forgiveness—and tips for readers on making their own fresh starts.

This cheerful meditation on starting over features a character that’s hard not to love . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-88448-443-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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