cover image How to Have a Birthday

How to Have a Birthday

Mary Lyn Ray, illus. by Cindy Derby. Candlewick, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0741-5

“On the morning of your birthday, you can tell already that the day is not like others,” intones second-person narration by Ray (The House of Grass and Sky). On what other days does one wear a crown at breakfast, or behold a stack of presents, or be officially sanctioned to “try out how it’s different being one year older”? Using radiant, translucent pastels, pencil, watercolor, and gouache to show celebrations in different seasons, Derby (Two Many Birds) centers three children throughout this book’s spreads: a brown-skinned three-year-old with two pigtail puffs; a white, red-haired five-year-old with round glasses; and a long-haired seven-year-old with brown skin and a beloved stuffed alligator. The younger children’s vignettes mostly unfold in pared-down but cozy domestic settings, while an older child flexes their independence in a snowy adventure rendered in impressionistic swirls of white-flecked blues and pinks (a surprise party awaits back home). Though the pacing begins to lag midway through, this is a fitting, visually luxuriant tribute to one of the greatest days on the kid calendar. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]