Reviews of the 2024 Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award Winner and Honor Books

Picture Book Winner

Do You Remember?
by Sydney Smith; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Porter/Holiday    40 pp.
10/23    9780823442621    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823450237    $11.99

A mother and child lie in bed, sharing memories in the dark. Changes in font color and placement guide readers in knowing who is speaking at which moment. First, the mother asks “Do you remember...” about a picnic they once had. The child then recalls a first bicycle, and the mother, a rainstorm. All memories include the two of them and the child’s father. But the next memory involves departing their home, the father staying behind after gently handing over a teddy bear. In one wordless spread, Smith (illustrator of My Baba’s Garden, rev. 3/23) shows readers what mother and child see: a room filled with boxes. The child asks if they can “make this a memory, too…just you and me,” ending with, “We knew we were going to be just fine.” Why the father is not there is for readers to infer. Marked by beguiling light and shadow (the spreads in which the two lie in bed are marked by dark shades that grow progressively lighter as the story proceeds and light fills their room), the art captures the past in small vignettes, sometimes blurred with the passing of time and sometimes quite vivid — like memories themselves. How do we make memories? Which parts of them matter? This hushed and deeply tender story will spark many conversations. JULIE DANIELSON

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books

I’m From
by Gary R. Gray, Jr.; illus. by Oge Mora
Preschool, Primary    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    40 pp.
9/23    9780063089969    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780063334366    $10.99

“I come from / early morning wake-ups, / handcrafted blankets / knitted with memories.” A young Black boy arises from his cozy bed and finds Dad in the kitchen making his favorite breakfast of pancakes and pan-fried bologna. Readers accompany the (unnamed) character as he rides the rowdy school bus, plays in the schoolyard, and endures a “looooong school day.” After a visit to the neighborhood store, he returns home to his loving family and, finally, climbs back into his bed at night. While describing a seemingly ordinary routine, the lyrical text is a journey through Black language and culture, evoking a sense of identity, community, and connectedness: “Cotton candy hair / and razor-sharp lineups. / High fades and / low fades, / tight ponytails / and laid edges. / What’s up, y’all?” Mora’s mixed-media illustrations enhance the poetic storytelling. The colorful collage-work adds texture and motion to the pages, while selective hand-lettering emphasizes parts of the verse. On one spread that mentions microaggressions toward the narrator (“Can I touch your hair?” “Where are you from?”), the questions take over the pages, visually communicating the isolating feeling of being othered. This beautifully rendered picture book serves as a reminder of the importance of familial and cultural identity and the grounding that it offers in the wider world. MONIQUE HARRIS

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Ode to a Bad Day
by Chelsea Lin Wallace; illus. by Hyewon Yum
Preschool, Primary    Chronicle    48 pp.
4/23    9781797210803    $16.99

With loads of age-appropriate melodrama, a young girl laments all the bad things that happen on a bad day, starting with “Too Much Milk in My Cereal.” Late to school (“always rushing, hurry, hustling”), she falls and gets a boo-boo, then someone cuts the line at school (“that spot was mine, Sylvester Pine!”), she gets the hiccups, and she must eat a boring lunch (because, of course, the pudding cup was left at home). After school is no better: a boring trip to the market (“A chore at the store? I fall to the floor!”), slimy spaghetti for dinner, and the discovery of a noisy cricket in her room at bedtime (amusingly ironic, as the cricket has discreetly followed her all day long). Wallace’s cleverly written ode is well complemented by Yum’s (Grandpa Across the Ocean, rev. 7/21) familiar colored-pencil art in which the girl’s big feelings are conveyed through exaggerated facial expressions and the extreme body language of a young drama queen (down on one knee, weeping in the store; an actual face-plant into her plate of spaghetti). While good at complaining, this girl is also unexpectedly good at turning things around (so far, she’s seemed as inflexible as her stiff pink tutu). As she’s tucked into bed, she philosophically notes that “a better day is on its way” — one in which “lines are led by me,” “pudding’s all I eat,” and “chores feel like a ride.” Not a bad ending to a full-on bad day. JENNIFER M. BRABANDER

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

The 2024 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced on June 20th, 2024. For reviews of the other winning titles and more, click on the tag BGHB24.

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