Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil

Cover image for Keep Your Head Up.

Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil, illustrated by Charly Palmer (9781534480407)

A bad day starts for this boy when he wakes up late. He can’t move fast and his sister has used his sparkly toothpaste to make slime. Still, he knows he can try to make it a good day. But things just keep on going wrong. He has forgotten his gym uniform plus he doesn’t get the class job that lets him take a walk. His face starts to show his frustration. He gets the last laptop in writing class, the one with the sticky space bar. He forgets to raise his hand in math class, even though his answer was right. He manages to get paint all over his uniform. He’s been trying to avoid a meltdown all day, but it doesn’t work. He gets sent to the principal’s office. The quiet there helps, but the day won’t get much better until he decides to keep on trying to keep his head up.

Neil captures all of the emotions of a bad day in her picture book. The steady drum of small things going wrong throughout the day is something that many kids will recognize. They will also relate to the emotions of anger, frustration and the final loss of control after trying so hard. There is a lot of empathy in this book and yet also no easy answers other than to keep on trying, be gentle with yourself.

The illustrations by the Coretta Scott King Award winner Palmer are rich and beautiful. He shows all of the emotions that the protagonist feels using a cloud that follows the boy everywhere. The cloud changes color as the boy’s emotions get darker and angrier too. Throughout there is a sense of a strong Black family unit and larger Black community.

An emotional look at a bad day that just might turn out OK. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster.

Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind

Cover image for Red and Green and Blue and White.

Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (9781646140879)

Based on a true story, this picture book explores hate crimes and what a community can do to stand up for what they believe in. Isaac lived in the one house in town decorated in blue and white for Chanukah rather than red and green for Christmas. Teresa lived across the street in a house with a big Christmas tree. The two were best friends. They both loved playing in the snow, being creative, and lots of sprinkles. One night, a shadow approached Isaac’s house and threw a rock through their front window. Isaac’s family considered not lighting the menorah that night, but lit it after all. Teresa made a picture of a menorah to support them, one that glowed with white and blue light. Soon others in the neighborhood joined them, then the school and library, then more and more. Finally, 10,000 windows lit with a combination of red and green and blue and white, standing in solidarity against hate.

Inspired by events that happened in 1993 in Billings, Montana, this picture book shows how one act of hatred cannot stand before a community committed to being there for one another and standing in unity together. The book shines with hope and love, the moment of darkness at its center an important opportunity for a community to show who they really are. It’s a book of inclusion and community, an important story for our volatile times.

Zelinsky’s illustrations are filled with light and darkness. From the glowing holiday lights spilling out of homes to the darkness of the act of hatred, there is a distinct insistence not to fear the darkness but to make it one’s own. The final image of the mixture of holiday lights is profoundly moving and sets just the right tone for all of our winter holiday celebrations.

Important, beautiful and inspiring. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Levine Querido.