cover image Keep Your Head Up

Keep Your Head Up

Aliya King Neil, illus. by Charly Palmer. S&S/Millner, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-8040-7

A Black boy attempts to stay positive on a crummy Monday in this well-paced picture book. Employing an accessible first-person narration (“I walk to school with my head up/ even though I feel a little scrunchy./ It can still be a good day./ Any day can be good if you try”), King Neil follows D. through his bad day: after waking up late, he discovers his sister has used his sparkly toothpaste for slime (“Toothpaste doesn’t even go in slime”), he can’t play kickball because he doesn’t have his gym uniform, and various mishaps and disappointments follow. D. attempts to work through his “scrunchy” feelings throughout the day, but eventually, mounting distress leads to a meltdown (“A meltdown is when you want to keep your head up, but it won’t stay”). A meeting with Miss King, the school’s kind Black principal, helps reframe the day. Palmer’s expressive acrylic paintings offer lush, vibrantly multilayered spreads that center D.’s emotions, showing a darkening storm cloud overhead. As the child’s principal and parents show him grace in a realistically nuanced ending, the resonant narrative gently encourages patience and compassion for readers doing their best to keep their own heads up. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)