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.