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This is a wonderful picture book on the multi-faceted perspectives that many Black Americans have on the nation’s flag, and patriotism, generally. The history of America is filled with moments of happiness and pride. But, it is also filled with moments of sadness and shame. How do we choose to honor the good while acknowledging the bad? The unnamed boy in the story concludes, “So at school, and at games, and whenever I can, I CHOOSE to salute, with my heart and my hand. I’m my ancestors’ dream, what they hoped to be true — A brown child who’d find pride in the red, white, and blue.” The text rhymes throughout — remarkably well — elevating this moving book even further. Finally, the illustrations, by London Ladd, are truly among the finest I’ve ever seen — clever, colorful, dynamic, moving, and beautiful. What a powerful book on a powerful topic! This is an absolutely must-have book for any library or school room. It is sure to become beloved by many of us who’ve resolved to love our neighbors and country, even while we wonder about the path our country has taken. This is ultimately a hopeful book that stirs a wiser, more informed patriotism than much of what we see and hear too often today. It is an outstanding work that the creators have much to be proud of.

This is a lovely story about a scarecrow whom a young girl reads to over the long summers. Each year, she often remarks something like, “Hopefully, the scarecrow will be okay until spring,” The scarecrow realizes its name is Hopefully, as it soaks up the stories each day, all summer long, as the girl grows. The heartwarming tale shows how the power of stories can help us learn bravery, patience, perseverance — and hope. The illustrations are lovely and compelling throughout, with beautiful flowers from the garden each year. I especially love the two-page spreads where the girl reads stories, and the margins come alive with ancient Greek sailing ships, lions and dragons, and kings and queens. Eventually, the girl is grown and she fixes up Hopefully, bringing the scarecrow with her as she continues to read to him — and little children — as a librarian! This is such a heartwarming book that would be a most welcome addition to any library!

This is a beautiful and charming book that is ultimately about resilience and dealing with what psychologists call “creative mortification,” which is “the loss of one’s willingness to pursue a particular creative aspiration following a negative performance outcome.” Yet, it’s also about the inner lives of artists who see all around them until “The Artists head is full. Full of colors, full of feelings. Full of moods, full of dreams. Things imagined and things she has seen.” The delightfully engaging illustrations — which are “taped” to each page — show a young dinosaur artist who goes off on a creative journey to a big city where she uses the buildings as a canvas for her paintings. The people who live there love her art, but one day, she colors outside the lines and refuses to paint further. A young girl reminds the Artists, “Coloring outside the lines doesn’t matter… Mistakes are how you learn! Heart is what matters. And your art is full of heart!” This is a lesson I think all of us would benefit from pondering more often, including the young artists in our homes, libraries, and classrooms, bless them all!

This is a straightforward, yet inspiring, biography of Barbie, retold here as a picture book focusing on how and why the doll was created by Ruth Handler (played by Rhea Perlman in the 2023 blockbuster movie). Handler’s goal of continually revising the doll to fit the times was to help little girls envision themselves taking on those roles someday, as adults — whether as a ballerina or astronaut. “Ruth persisted when others said her dream was impossible. She created a doll to inspire girls to imagine their future.” The paper, printing, and binding are top-notch. The illustrations are just lovely throughout, and the concise text is well-written. This book would be a wonderful gift to go alongside a birthday Barbie doll and is a must-have for any library.

This is a fun and funny book for beginning readers who don’t like to go to bed. In this kinetic and cleverly illustrated book, the young banana interrupts and tries to co-opt the book into a crazy playtime book, when it’s supposed to be a bedtime book, instead. Because of the clever wordplay, humorous interruptions, and delightful chaos — as the off-page parent/narrator’s choices for what each letter stands for are replaced by something more lively (and humorous) — it may be a little difficult to read out loud, which is why I think it’s probably best for young readers. And yet, the playful young banana prepares for bed and falls asleep — “zonked” out — on the last page.

Since skateboarding became a visually engaging Olympic sport, for men and women, in the 2020 Olympics, its popularity has spread across the globe — including among young girls in India. But after breaking her finally-healed arm, one of the three girls finds herself too scared to try again, in this charming book about perseverance. “Skating is for anyone who wants to try,” yet, “If you fall, it’s okay to cry,” her friends explain. Once the young girl is brave enough to try again, succeeding, a boy asks, “Aren’t you afraid of falling?” “Sometimes,” she says, “but when I’m not falling, I’m flying.” The illustrations help convey the action and camaraderie found at skate parks worldwide, each filled with brave young children, trying again.

This fun book features a very clever lyric, apparently set to “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The new version of the timeless and fun Christmas carol is told from a young girl’s perspective and is based on an extended Black American family showing up for a family dinner, with each (very different) group bringing a different dish to serve. It’s loads of fun, with lots of witty insights throughout. The 2-D illustrations are absolutely darling and are set in a nominally 3-D environment, like a diorama, with a little bit of shadowing behind them. Further, as the song progresses it cleverly shifts perspective higher and higher, moving from a regular, profile point of view, to an elevated, isometric point of view, and then even higher into an almost overhead, “God’s eye” point of view. It’s a wonderful effect and helps make room for all the (increasingly crowded) antics. All ends happily in this delightful book!