Sweetest Kulu, written by Inuit throat singer, Celina Kalluk, and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis, is a soothing picture book, perfect to curl up with at bedtime. Kulu is a term of endearment used by Inuit. The lyrical and delicately unfolding story is steeped in cultural and regional specificity as well as universal emotions of love.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (2017), written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, is a smart biographical children’s picture book about Dr. Temple Grandin, a compassionate scientist with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Born in 1947, Temple Grandin became an important figure in the farming industry for her work refining the treatment of cattle. Grandin negotiated ASD and the sexism in her field at a time when ASD was poorly understood and women didn’t do “men’s” work. Writer and illustrator both do a very good job representing neurodiversity as a critical lens for seeing the world differently and making a difference in the world.
Gayle Pitman is the author of numerous LGBTQ* children’s picture books. Published in 2014, This Day in June, is not her newest release, but it is worth reviewing as it captures a beautifully inclusive vision of a Pride Parade sure to delight young readers. This text can easily be read with toddlers, who will enjoy the multiple representations of fabulous queerness colorfully illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Written by Alice Reeves and illustrated by Phoebe Kirk, Vincent the Vixen is a children’s picture book full of welcome surprises. The story, about a transgender girl-fox, encourages conversations about acceptance, self-awareness, and gender identity.
It begins with several foxes playing together. The foxes, identified as siblings, are seen without any identifying gender markers, such as clothes. They’re shown playing hide-and-seek, swimming, and annoying a grumpy cat. None of these activities are particularly gendered, so at the text’s opening gender is inserted as a non-issue. This changes when the fox cubs go to Betty the Badger’s house.
All Around Us, written by Xelena Gonzalez and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, is a meditation. Garcia’s images are digitally generated and seem to straddle the line between spiritual and material, curving into a circle under the weight of Gonzalez’s poetic prose. This is fitting since the text explores time as neither linear nor marked by the progression of an individual, but instead cyclical and communal.
Written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (2018), is an invaluable contribution to children’s literature that should be in every school and public library. Although the story focuses on Harvey Milk, a historically significant figure all children should learn about, it does so by positioning him within a vibrant community. As a result, the brightly illustrated picture book gives young readers a strong sense of the importance of community belonging and community building, while also paying homage to a courageous figure in US history.
Here’s what authors are saying about my reviews:
“Thank you for the thoughtful/in-depth review of our book, Jennifer—so glad you enjoyed it!” – Minh Le, author of Drawn Together
“Your beautiful review made me cry. Thank you so much for reminding me why I wrote the story, and why I have to keep on fighting for kids like Morris, even when I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel and getting nowhere. THANK YOU.” – Christine Baldacchino, author of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
“Wow, thank you so much for the fabulous review of my book! So glad you appreciate the meaning of the book as I do.” – Stacy B. Davids, author of Annie’s Plaid Shirt
“Thank you for taking the time to review it! Hit the nail on the head :)” – Daniel Vandever, author of “Fall in Line Holden”
“What an amazing review–thank you!” – Zetta Elliott, author of Milo’s Museum
“Oh wow, thank you so much for the wonderful review, Jennifer! So happy to hear you liked the book.” – Alice Reeves, author of Vincent the Vixen
I am happy to evaluate socially engaged, inclusive children’s literature. If you are an author or publisher interested in requesting a review, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.