Three Picture Books that Made the Switch from Hit Song to Picture Book

It seems as if every fourth book is based on a familiar song, from folk to rock and beyond! Judge for yourselves which made the translation with no wrong notes, and stay tuned for more!


This is the year when it seems as if every fourth book is based on a familiar song, from folk to rock and beyond! Judge for yourselves which made the translation with no wrong notes, and stay tuned for more!

Diaz, Lucky. Paletero Man. illus. by Micah Player. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063014442.
K-Gr 2–This bright, bilingual story sparkles with celebrated musician-songwriter Diaz’s English and Spanish rhymes and Player’s bubbly, colorful digital illustrations, blending seamlessly to represent Diaz’s pride for his hometown in Los Angeles. Young readers will race alongside a Mexican American boy as he runs through his neighborhood streets to buy a cold paleta, a Mexican-style ice pop, quickly greeting local business owners on the way. As the boy rushes to find Paletero José and his paleta cart, daydreaming about the many fruity paleta flavors he will enjoy, the boy’s pocket change accidentally falls loose. The boy’s friends notice his plight and save the day, exemplifying a harmonious energy within the community that resonates through short, expressive bilingual rhymes. Similarly, illustrations fill every corner with vibrancy and amity in the people and activities depicted, honoring Eighth Street for its cultural diversity and liveliness. Along with an insightful author’s note, there is a website provided by the publisher on the book’s cover to link elementary readers to the children’s song “Paletero Man.” VERDICT Filled with life and joy, this story is an upbeat, multi-sensory experience that honors the breadth and harmony of multiculturalism in Diaz’s LA hometown.–Rachel Mulligan, Westampton, NJ

Gripp, Parry. It’s Raining Tacos! illus. by Peter Emmerich. 32p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063006478.
PreS-Gr 1–A birthday party with cake, pizza, and a bouncy house, what’s not to love? Young readers will delight in the familiarity and joy of a child’s birthday celebration with all of their favorite activities and foods. And what’s a birthday celebration without some hijinks? Imagine getting a dog as a present and then your dog destroying your special birthday table and eating your pizza. Thanks to the lyrics of the titular song, the universe changes course with a most unusual gift: tacos raining from the sky. And who doesn’t love tacos? Many readers will find the rhyming text, robust color palette, and imagery of tacos pouring from the sky a real treat. Yet, the story and imagery rely heavily on familiarity with the song, over-the-top celebrations, or tolerance for repetition. It requires readers and listeners alike to lean into the unbelievable, and to make two events—party ruined, party fixed—into a story. There is carefully crafted racial diversity throughout. VERDICT There are stronger books that celebrate the the simplicity and enjoyment of parties; there are songs with more of a story arc for picture-book adaptation.–Maegen Rose, Rye Country Day Sch., NY

McKenna, Lori. Humble and Kind. illus. by Katherine Blackmore. 32p. Akashic. Mar. 2021. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781617758522.
PreS-K–Into the recent trend of picture books based on pop songs—from folklore to rock—comes this entry, with soft focus illustrations and charming scenes of a biracial family of five working around the home, gathering, shopping, building a treehouse, and more. The lyrics of McKenna’s song—“You know there’s a light that glows by the front door”—wrap and frame these scenes like photos from an album; the father has light brown skin, the mother tan, and their children share similar facial features and skin tones. But it’s not their looks that make them a family; it’s the casual way they are posed, with a baby up on the father’s shoulder, the brother pushing a wagon, their postures leaning in to one another, and a spirit of love and cooperation in every scene. There isn’t a narrative arc, in text or in pictures, but the atmosphere is snug, and for fans of the song, which reflects the tenets of many world religions and mentions a church is otherwise secular. VERDICT Children will feel reassured by the sentiments within this expressive extension of the music, and a sweet daydream of a picture book.–Kimberly Olson Fakih, School Library Journal

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