I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

I Am Every Good Thing cover image

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (9780525518778)

From the team that created Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut comes a new picture book that speaks in the voice of a Black boy about who he is. He is a leader, thanks to his endless energy. He is every good thing in the world, good to his core, “like the center of a cinnamon roll.” He is skinned knees and getting back up again. He is a scientist exploring his world. He is polite and ready to learn. He is wildly creative, exploring and absorbing information. He is laughter and smiles, the perfect beat and rhyme. He is an athlete, a brother, a son, and much more. He is hugs, support and love. He is not what people call him, but what he knows himself to be inside, sometimes a superhero, and always worthy of love.

This is a book all about empowerment, of seeing your own identity and holding it clear against what society may say about you. It’s a book that all children need, but Black boys most of all, as they are targeted and threatened by the world they live in. It is a book that insists and demands that Black children are every sort of wonderful thing, all wrapped into one person. The text is a poem, playing out across the pages, reminding and telling readers that they are valued and important.

The art by James is gorgeous, centering on the main protagonist in the story, but also showing many other Black boys on the pages with different skin tones, hair and emotions. There are several breathtaking pages, including the final smile on the last page that will stick with readers as he looks right into your eyes.

Another amazing picture book from this team. This book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Wink by Rob Harrell

Wink by Rob Harrell

Wink by Rob Harrell (9781984815149)

Ross desperately just wants to be normal, but that isn’t working out for him. After being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, he has a permanent wink. He goes for treatments each week, making friends with an old guy who is always there as well as with one of the technicians who is desperate to improve Ross’ taste in music. Meanwhile at school, he is steadily becoming stranger as his hair starts to fall out in clumps, he has to use gloppy creams, and he starts to wear a hat all the time. He’s the opposite of normal and the bully in his class definitely notices. But even as he gets further from normal, he starts to figure some things out, like how great it feels to play the guitar even if your fingers are ready to bleed, how amazing it is to play in a band, and how a ton of humor can get you through almost anything.

Based on the author’s personal story, this book takes a unique look at a cancer journey. Harrell’s book is downright hilarious, never allowing the book become too full of the harrowing nature of having a rare cancer and the impacts of the treatment. Ross and Rob are too funny to let that happen, incorporating the adventures of Batpig to help. Through all of the humor a poignancy shines through, allowing those moments of serious crisis to really stand out with their importance and yet also their impermanence.

The book is filled with comic pages, art, and notes. It has hair clumps, face goop, music mixes and more. These graphic elements help to break up the text but also really demonstrate Ross’ skill with art and his quirky sense of humor as he deals with his cancer.

Funny, sarcastic and honest, this is a cancer book with laughter and head-banging music, not tears. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (9780711252424)

With a clear focus on self-acceptance and body positivity, this nonfiction picture book celebrates all girls and young women. The book is filled with images of girls of all sizes, races, religions and abilities. Readers are told to start loving their bodies now, not waiting. Bodies are more than just there to be admired: they are strong and active no matter their size or shape. The book encourages readers to make a list of what they appreciate about their body, offering help and ideas. The book then recommends that if that did not help it might be a good idea to seek help from an adult or organization. Self care is also emphasized along with dressing your body the way it feels best to you. Self-love is a process, and this book shows a clear way forward.

Sanders’ text is clear and fierce. She demands that readers take action, not see themselves as objects, and deeply understand that no matter our size, race or ability that our bodies are ours to treasure and celebrate. The focus on self kindness and self care is an important one, nicely moving readers away from perfectionism towards habits that will serve them well for their entire lives.

The illustrations are tremendous. I particularly love the groups of girls and young women gathered together in their underwear and fully clothed. It’s a visual sisterhood, a commitment to loving ourselves and one another. The girls throughout the book are diverse and active. I particularly appreciate that it is often the larger girls as well as those of different abilities who are doing the activities.

Fierce, kind and compassionate, this book insists that all girls are valued. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Frances Lincoln.

Grandparents by Chema Heras

Grandparents by Chema Heras

Grandparents by Chema Heras, illustrated by Rosa Osuna (9781771645669)

When Grandfather hears an announcement of a party in the main square, he knows just who to invite. He rushes home to ask his wife, Manuela, to join him. But Manuela isn’t quite as eager as he is to head to a party. Grandfather picks Grandmother a flower and tells her how beautiful she is. Grandmother heads inside to put on eyeliner, then mascara, then skin cream, but each time Grandfather tells her that she is lovely just the way she is and to hurry up so they can go dancing! Lipstick, hair dye and a change of clothes are the next delays, but Grandfather is ready to cajole Grandmother along. Finally, the two of them go dancing together, and Grandmother realizes that Grandfather is just as beautiful as the moon too.

First published in Portuguese, this charming picture book explores the power of love and of being oneself. Heras uses a series of metaphors to describe Grandmother’s beauty. Her eyes are “as sad and beautiful as stars at night.” Her white hair is like “a midsummer cloud” and her skin is wrinkly like “nuts in a pie.” Grandmother herself uses negative metaphors to describe herself, but those are all countered by Grandfather’s love and adoration for her.

The illustrations are quirky and interesting, filled with surreal combinations of spaces and objects. As they are together in the house, the couple sometimes appear sideways or upside down as well as right-side-up nearby.

A warm and lovely look at love and self-esteem. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

You Matter by Christian Robinson

You Matter by Christian Robinson

You Matter by Christian Robinson (9781534421691)

Master picture book author and illustrator Robinson returns with a book just right for our pandemic situation. The book moves in a complete circle, beginning and ending with the same phrases. It starts with the importance of things that are too small to see with the naked eye. The book expresses that you matter whether you are first or last, go with the flow or go your own way. You matter if you fall down, if others are too busy to help, or even if you have to start all over again. You matter if you are far from home and feel alone. Whatever your age, you matter.

This picture book demands that readers see themselves as vital and important in their world regardless of status, situation or mood. It insists from a deep and powerful place that everyone matters, with no caveats at all. Robinson’s warmth exudes from the page even with such simple language and brief lines. That works to make this book accessible to even the youngest of children.

The art is great, adding humor to the book as one part focuses on mosquitoes and dinosaurs, comets and restarting the entire world. It also embraces diversity, showing people of different races, faiths and abilities.

An anthem for all of us to hold in our hearts. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder

The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder

The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder (9780735230507)

When he was born, Terrance came out without a shell. So his parents gave him a box instead. Terrance loved his box shell. It fit just right, kept him dry, safe and protected. He could even share it with his best friend, a hermit crab. But when Terrance met some other turtles, they mocked his box. So he set out to find a better shell option. He tried all sorts of new “shell” like mail boxes, window boxes, a jack-in-the-box, a boom box, and even a treasure chest, but nothing worked. When his best friend offered up his own shell, Terrance realized that everyone was more than their shells. So he went back to his beloved box, which had seen some wear and tear itself. With some help from his friends and family, they transformed it into exactly what Terrance was looking for. 

Told with plenty of humor, including some bare turtle bottoms, this picture book embraces being different. It also looks at how casual cruel statements can impact a person, until their self-esteem repairs enough to stand strong once again. The art is done with speech bubbles and some framing that makes it feel a bit like a graphic novel but with a softness and pastel colors that keep it very friendly for small children. 

Full of resilience and tenacity, this picture book will have you thinking inside the box. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (9780884487975)

Celebrate the magic of the color brown in this book filled with poetic words and enticing illustrations. Deep secret brown is the color of the river currents and also the little girl’s eyes. It is the color of her eyelashes which are the same brown as the shadows of the hemlock trees in the woods where they hike. Amber brown is the color of honey and the color of her hair. Radiant brown is the color of the sand at the beach and the color of her skin. Brown is the color of caramel and cocoa, the color of warm family moments on icy cold days and the color of fall leaves and laughter. 

Doyon’s poetry is approachable and accessible for young readers who will see themselves not only reflected on the pages but celebrated for all of their colors. Doyon’s poem is not simple, she insists on looking deeply at the colors and moments that connect us all, the laughter and the love in our families, and the beauty of African-American skin. She has created a picture book that delights in turning what society sees as a negative into a joyous positive party.

The illustrations are pure delight, as you can see from the cover. They take warm autumnal colors, which of course include brown, and create a book that glows in the reader’s hands. Skin color is celebrated, as is diversity in the African-American community. There is pure joy in the illustrations that matches the positivity of the text.

A positive look at African-American families, skin colors and experiences. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Child of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana, illustrated by Raul Colon (9781524717551)

This picture book takes the science of how atoms move through the universe and then shows how that makes us all very special. Through the eyes of one father and his child, each of us is celebrated for our connection to stars, planets and the entire universe. The story is told in lyrical verse that connects the child to the sun, the moon and faraway planets. The little girl’s features and hair are all compared to the Milky Way and the shine of the cosmos, inextricably tying them to one another. This book will have us all delighting in the iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones and the stars in the sky. 

Jayawardhana’s text in this picture book is evocative and lovely, inviting everyone to think of their own connection to the universe. Combining this poetic approach with the science behind it in his Author’s Note, this book really allows children to imagine themselves as an integral and unique part of a much larger system, dreaming beyond the earth.

Colon’s art is jaw dropping in this picture book. He takes readers to other planets, frozen and barren but then lights the skies with new planets, galaxies and stars. He fill the bodies visually with the swirl of stars and planets and then juxtaposes humans into these wild and beautiful worlds he has created. 

A stellar look at our connection to the universe. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Make Me a World. 

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9781626726314)

Inspired by a comment from her daughter, Joy celebrates being Black in this picture book that definitively places the color black in the rainbow of the world. In poetic verse, she looks at a myriad of lovely things in life that are black like her friend’s braids, bicycle tires, Thurman’s robes, ink on a page. The images come from children’s own lives but also are inspiring, speaking to figures in African-American history and culture. The color black and being Black mean so many different positive and powerful things, that black itself is a rainbow to celebrate.

Joy’s writing is powerful, singing on the page like a hymn. She writes simply but with great imagery and drawing in references to powerful African-Americans along the way. She also takes lines of songs and weaves them into her poem. At the end of the book, she writes of the inspiration for her book, the songs included in her poem, and the use of various ethnonyms to refer to the Black community over time. A bibliography of titles is also appended.

The art by Holmes is exceptional. Much of the art in the book pays homage to stained glass windows with thick black lines and strong colors. Other pages use a lighter line, more details and allow colors to swirl and dance. The entire work is one of graphic power and color.

An important book for all library collections. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.