Though straining in spots, it has the offbeat, sweet style Jeffers’ fans know and love.

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WHAT WE'LL BUILD

PLANS FOR OUR TOGETHER FUTURE

An adult and child gather tools and prepare for a future together.

Some things they build are rife with symbolism, such as a shelter to store what they value (including some “love” they set aside) and futures they build for each other, depicted as a series of items in blue and pink waves that spring from a wristwatch. Others are more concrete, like the fortress they build to repel “enemies,” whom they later invite in for tea and apologies. Some of what they build is fantastical (a road to the moon). The book is dedicated to the author’s daughter and is considered a companion piece to Here We Are, published in 2017 and dedicated to his son, though the pair here could still be interpreted as having a different type of caretaker-child relationship. Camaraderie between the two is the thematic focus in this affectionate narrative. Portions of the text’s meaning are somewhat vague (the two lie next to a fire that will “keep us warm like when we’re born”), and the rhyming text, with moments of inconsistent meter, occasionally feels forced. Jeffers fills the pages with an odd, giggle-inducing assortment of creatures; the duo’s former foes include a one-eyed pirate, a witch, a Viking, and (in a very poorly timed choice) a white-coated doctor with a surgical mask, and there are a friendly octopus and birds in space helmets. Adult and child both present White. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Though straining in spots, it has the offbeat, sweet style Jeffers’ fans know and love. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20675-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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