How to Have a Birthday

Candlewick. Sept. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536207415.
Gr 2-4–The title is a statement, implying that there is a “right” way to have a birthday. Just before the title page is a small green box, ready to be unwrapped. Will this present hold the answer? Three families of various skin tones mark their birthdays in different ways. There are scenes of children waking up at dawn, playing with family members, and opening presents. There are less literal scenes near the middle of the book, in which text and art are not in concord: words about embarrassing birthday pictures, but the scene is a field of flowers. In some, flowers are silhouettes of happy and sad memories. The poetic license is less engaging than scenes with a clearer focus, like a child being measured each year or building a snowman. By the end of the book, text and art are again in harmony. All the children blow out their birthday candles and make a wish. Ray’s lyrical text showcases everyone’s choices, no matter how they celebrate. Derby’s watercolor and pastel illustrations are gentle and warm, showing stars streaking across a beautiful indigo sky.
VERDICT For the holiday shelves, and a lovely addition to larger collections.–

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