Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker

Cover image for Dream Street.

Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780525581109)

Dream Street is a very special street where there is a strong sense of community even though everyone is different and has their own special dreams. Yusef waits for his brother while thinking of his ancestors who were kings and queens. Mr. Sidney sits on the stoop all dressed up every day, even though he’s just reading the newspaper. Belle wants to be a scientist who studies butterflies. Azaria is great at jumping rope and dreams of winning a trophy. Ms. Sarah has lived on Dream Street longer than anyone, her soft voice will tell you stories. Zion loves to spend time at the library. Ede collects odds and ends that others toss away while her cousin writes down what she hears. Dessa Rae has a gorgeous garden where she and her grandbaby sometimes sleep. Ms. Paula dances. Little Benjamin counts the stars. All of children on Dream Street can become whatever they want, cared for by a strong Black community.

Walker based Dream Street on the street that she grew up on. The individual stories of each person on the street stand alone and also form a tapestry of what people’s dreams look like both as a child and also as an adult. It is those critical adult stories amongst the children’s that show what a good life that followed dreams looks like and demonstrates that potential for all of the younger ones as well. The writing here is poetic and lovely, stringing the stories together into a whole that shows how one street, one community can be positive and strong.

Holmes’ illustrations are collages made from papers, fabric and acrylic paint. Filled with vibrant color, patterns, and textures, each image is a portrait of the person being described in that story. They are filled with beautiful Black faces and people, each with their own personality and style.

A book that shows how support from a community help dreams come true. Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Anne Schwartz Books.

Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson

Cover image

Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Qin Leng (9781536201475)

In this wordless picture book, a little girl lives with her grandmother at their general store. One day, the grandmother posts that they have an apartment for rent above the shop. Soon people are arriving to view it. But the apartment is worn out and ragged with shelves ready to fall off the walls, cracked walls and chipped tiles, boarded up windows and a bare lightbulb. Lots of people come to see it, but no one rents it. Then a young interracial couple sees the rental sign, but the grandmother doesn’t approve of them. The little girl points out that they should give them a chance. Soon the couple is hard at work transforming the apartment with the help of the girl. Their help doesn’t stop with their own space, they also smarten up the front of the store by giving it a new coat of paint and fixing the sign. Even the stray cat in the neighborhood benefits and finds a new home. As the acceptance of this queer interracial couple grows, their positive impact on the entire neighborhood does too.

I love the wordless nature of this book, allowing the illustrations to tell the entire story. Leng’s illustrations are done in watercolor and show both the loneliness of the girl and her grandmother and then the steady transformation and rebirth of the apartment and the general store. The queer nature of the couple is shown via Pride flags as well as mentioned in the dedication at the beginning of the book. I particularly adore the wild-haired grandmother, who is so stuck in her own ways and her own grumpiness that one almost loses hope, but this book shows that growth is possible, change can happen, and it can open one up to new possibilities.

This wordless picture book speaks volumes about acceptance and transformation. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie, illustrated by Ellen Rooney (9781624148712)

Head outside into the early summer evening in this picture book. Play in the trees and see who can climb highest. Enjoy leapfrogging, kick the can, and running while playing tag. Take the time though to feel the bark, watch the leaves, discover worms, and hunt for frogs. Find a quiet curb to share some secrets before a game of hide and seek. As night continues to fall, the fireflies emerge. Soon parents are calling for children to head home and the neighborhood gets quiet until the children emerge again into the darkness as the moon rises.

Leslie cleverly shows the joys of being outside as darkness comes by weaving together plenty of games and activities with quieter moments of discovery. The resulting laughter combines with feeling safe and able to be on your own in the dark. Many of the games and activities are unique to just this time of day like the firefly catching and kick the can while others can be enjoyed at any time of day.

The illustrations by Rooney are done in vibrant mixed media with paint, collage and digital elements. They are filled with diverse children, all playing with one another. They also capture the changing light and colors of the sky beautifully as dusk and evening emerge.

Just right for summer afternoons so that children can experience their own dusk that night. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Page Street Kids.

Review: My Neighbor Is a Dog by Isabel Minhos Martins

my neighbor is a dog

My Neighbor Is a Dog by Isabel Minhos Martins, illustrated by Madalena Matoso

Originally published in Portugal, this book is a charming import.  It is the story of a young girl who gets a new neighbor who just happens to be a dog.  The dog is very friendly and kind, but the girl’s parents are not impressed, thinking that he would quickly start acting like the dog he was.  Soon after that, more new neighbors arrived, this time a pair of elephants.  The girl’s parents complained about them too, but the girl thought they were very nice.  Finally, a crocodile moved in.  That proved to be too much for her parents and they moved away.  But before they did, the little girl finds out that her parents are considered the odd ones in the neighborhood.  The final clever twist at the end shows exactly why.

Martins writing is just as vibrant as the bold illustrations.  She tells the story with wonderful little touches like the elephants helping with washing cars and the crocodile giving purses and shoes as Christmas gifts.  All of these details add to the world that she cleverly building and that wonderful surprise twist at the end.  Done in vibrant colors, the illustrations are created in hot pinks, deep blues and bright reds.  It is a modern world, with the pop colors adding to that feel. 

A look at acceptance and diversity through the eyes of a child, this book will speak to all children about preconceptions and tolerance.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.