Review of Patchwork

by Matt de la Peña; illus. by Corinna Luyken
Primary    Putnam    48 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-9848-1396-1    $18.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-593-53234-8    $18.99

A rhythmic text speaks to an unnamed child in the second person, describing what “we see” and how that trait or characteristic may inform a young person’s future identity (for better or worse) and how they might see themself. In the first vignette, readers meet a child identified with “blue” at a gender-reveal party. With the page-turn, we learn they are “blue dressed in blue,” but their paintbrush at times “hovers above the pink.” As the character matures, though, “the color you will come to love most / is brown”—presumably the brown of their own skin. De la Peña’s text does not specify whether it’s directed at one figure or many, but Luyken illustrates each vignette with a different child, all part of a multiracial cast: a dance-loving tot grows up to find rhythm in computer code; a young athlete (“You are basketball-baseball-fútbol-any-kind-of-ball”) becomes a bilingual poet; a class clown becomes a compassionate teacher. Luyken’s backgrounds feature brushy squares, a visual motif that plays on the title. The “we” that observes and speaks to each character becomes broadly expansive at the end, enfolding narrator, characters, and readers: “We are beautiful.” Gentle and affirming.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews. She has served on a bunch of award committees and on the ALSC Board but she speaks for none of them, nor does she speak for this magazine, though it’s nice enough to print her opinions.

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