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All We Need

Kathy Wolff, illus. by Margaux Meganck. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-61963-874-7

Accompanying Wolff’s (What George Forgot) verses about what people need to live, Meganck (The Marvelous Mustard Seed) paints loving, attentive families of varying ages and ethnicities in a bustling city neighborhood. Some are seen enjoying a park fountain whose jets cool hot days. “All we need/ is what falls from above/ to fill up our glass and our bucket and tub”—suspense carries through a spread of children cavorting in the spray until the need is revealed: water. The pattern of the stanza’s omitted last word quickly becomes apparent, inviting readers to guess: “Whether it’s roasted or simmered or stewed,/ All we need...”—families are seen preparing potluck items for a community dinner, from tamales to gyoza—“...is food.” In Wolff’s hymn to resource sharing and community, Meganck paints families living lightly on the earth—cycling, enjoying each other’s children, and sharing food while offering each other emotional support through teaching, listening, and the occasional embrace. Warm, reassuring images throughout show families whose shared participation makes neighborhood ties stronger. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Sarah Landis, Sterling Lord Literistic. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Kilkelly, LK Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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What the Road Said

Cleo Wade, illus. by Lucie de Moyencourt. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-26949-2

The road is not only a metaphor for life’s journey in this meditative picture book but also a supportive and wise friend accompanying readers on their individual paths. A young narrator wonders if there is “something more... something just.../ different” before happening upon a new road and asking where it leads. The road responds, “Be a leader and find out.” Thus begins a conversation between the two that results in encouraging, confident answers to questions such as, “What if I get lost?” “What if I get lonely?” and “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Alongside de Moyencourt’s vividly colored, bucolic scenes of the natural world, accessible language and a heartfelt tone make this a meta guide for a broad range of readers finding their way to their future. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Sail

Dorien Brouwers. Little, Brown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-49548-6

Weathered and sun-bleached hues of blue, gray, and green set the stage for extended metaphor of sailing a ship through “life’s adventurous tale.” A young white child sailor leaves shore in search of adventure and newness, charting a course as the text reads, “Follow your heart. Use the wind’s force.” When rough seas rock the boat, the book offers new guidance: “And if you ever do fall in,/ it’s time to try your best to swim.” As the child dips a head below the water, a shimmering rainbow world of wondrous creatures awaits. The supportive voice and message about learning seems at odds with the book’s portrayal of mortal peril, but readers can almost feel the ocean spray as they turn pages depicting the wild open sea. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Let’s Taco About How Great You Are

Bob Holt. Doubleday, $12.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-18201-7

Readers will want to make room at the table for the snappy anthropomorphic snacks in this brief, greeting card–like book, all of which serve up encouragement and punny jokes galore. Holt adroitly transforms photographs of real-life food items into characters with simple but emotive faces. A running ravioli (“wheee!”) dashes by the quip “Don’t let life pasta you by”; the taco on the cover promises, “This is NACHO average advice book”; and a wide-eyed wiener in a bun exclaims, “Glad I could ketchup with you!” Bold page colors and large-print words in a zingy font help make this a satisfyingly silly reading repast, ideal for handing to new grads or anyone in need of a mood boost. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Your Future Is Bright

Corey Finkle, illus. by Shelley Couvillion. Holt, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-62144-3

Classmates wave farewell and rush out the door, jettisoning backpacks, books, and pencil cases at the start of this rhyming, celebratory peek into potential pursuits. In Seussian rhyme, the text suggests “a few clues” based on the kids’ interests. Perhaps the child who enjoys running, for example, will take up a sport. An observant child, meanwhile, might “be a detective or spy/ Discovering secrets as people walk by.” Then again, the narrator notes, “your interests might alter—it happens a lot,” suggesting that following one’s instincts and “generous heart” ensures a bright future. The pep of Finkle’s encouraging text is matched by Couvillion’s energetic illustrations, which are buoyed by frequent swatches and ribbons of color that convey forward flow. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)


Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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What Will You Be?

Yamile Saied Méndez, illus. by Kate Alizadeh. HarperCollins, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-283995-4

Astronaut, unicorn, and clown are a brown-skinned child’s choices for what to be as an adult. But when a group of friends press, “No, what will you really be?” the child turns to comforting and creative Abuela, “who has been everything under the Sun and the Moon,” about how to imagine possibilities for the future. Offering sound, loving advice, “Abuela points to my heart and says, ‘Listen.’ ” And a rainbow swirl of paint from Abuela’s brush sweeps readers through pages of verdant outdoor scenes as the child envisions various futures as a builder, a dreamer, a farmer, a healer—taking pride in how each of those roles celebrates community, heritage, and family, and offering readers a greater understanding of the future’s expansive possibilities. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Hello World!

Kelly Corrigan, illus. by Stacy Ebert. Flamingo, $17.99 (44p) ISBN 978-0-593-20606-5

What awaits a young person moving on and out into the world? Echoing Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Corrigan offers the upbeat promise: “Oh the people you will know!” Bouncy, alliterative text haphazardly highlights some individuals that one may encounter, including “People with braids. People with burkas... People in blue jeans. People with black belts,” and many others. Since “there’s more to everyone than you think,” muses Corrigan, asking people questions yields precious fruit: “That’s how you’ll find out that the butterfly-chaser/ knows how to swim backstroke.” Newcomer Ebert delivers brightly colored artwork with a sweet-natured comic zip—highlights include a page of variously emotive, dot-eyed faces of varied ages and skin tones. A peppy encouragement to connect with, and be curious about, others. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The End Is Just the Beginning

Mike Bender, illus. by Diana Mayo. Crown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-984896-93-3

Beginning with “THE END,” this thought-provoking picture book uses the phrase as an exercise in altering one’s perception about conclusions. While a child initially questions a book that starts with its ending, the book’s narrator, a caterpillar, reassures readers: “Prepare to have your mind blown... the end isn’t really the end. It’s just the beginning of something else!” Examples of this lens-change follow: sunset is the end of the day but also the beginning of the night. A rocket ship blasts off and reaches, Bender writes, “the end of the sky.../ otherwise known as/ the beginning of outer space.” And “the end of a mistake.../ is just the beginning/ of learning something new.” Throughout, gauzy, gently hued mixed-media scenes by Mayo show an ethnically inclusive group of children experiencing various beginnings and endings. Readers may well guess the words on the final page of this forward-looking volume, which is just right for readers anxious about finality. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Graduation Groove

Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illus. by Addy Rivera Sonda. Little Bee, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4998-1065-3

A bubbly kindergartner crew of varying abilities and skin tones keeps a jaunty beat during preparations for their continuation to first grade. Heling and Hembrook highlight anticipation as the kids don blue caps and gowns, pose for photos, and remember how far they’ve come in lines that highlight kindergarten experiences: “Got the graduation groove/ in my kindergarten heart./ Know my letters and my numbers,/ feeling first-grade smart.” For one brown-skinned child getting ready to take the graduation stage, everything freezes momentarily as “first-grade jitters” take hold. Though “I’ll really miss our hamster/ and projects that we made,” the friendly faces of family and an enthusiastic audience help the figure get things back on track, head to the class party, and look forward to a new year. Rivera Sonda’s sunny illustrations add to the book’s friendly, assuring vibe about moving on from—and into—beloved experiences. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Go Be Wonderful!

Donna Gephart, illus. by Francesca Chessa. Holiday House, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4511-0

From the day that Daisy was born, the loving adults in her life, including her Black mother and white father, have continually offered the same sage directive: “Go be wonderful.” And in their eyes, “she was,” whether dancing, learning to use the potty, or even throwing a tantrum. Chessa’s moving multimedia scenes celebrate common maturation milestones in sunny, vibrant colors, showing Daisy thriving in her intimate friends-and-family community, raking leaves and interacting with the family dog. But when it comes time to start school, Daisy is filled with “what if” anxiety and not so sure she’ll be wonderful in a new, mysterious place. Reassuringly, the creators outline “what did happen,” showing that even on a first day with some bumpy moments, everything turns out just fine, and Daisy remains as wonderful as ever. A warmly resonant recount of Daisy’s early years sets the stage for this universal confidence booster with a gentle, joyful tone. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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