I AM ABLE TO SHINE

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Keiko sometimes feels invisible and out of place. When overlooked by adults or treated unkindly by peers, she “remains steady like a tree” thanks to her family’s love. Watari highlights Keiko’s good qualities, such as her determination, strength, and kindness. Wu’s watercolor, ink, and digital artwork shows Keiko’s accomplishments, from averting a playground fight to teaching her peers about Japanese cultural traditions (such as the Obon festival) to winning over former bullies. We see her growth and journey from a child to an empowered adult, shining as both the president of the United States and a parent of her own child. Filled to the brim with affirmations, the narrative avoids difficult emotions except for one illustration showing Keiko with a frustrated look on her face as White ballet classmates taunt her from across the room. Unfortunately, the relentless positivity rings a bit hollow, and Keiko’s experiences and development are conveyed with little nuance. Although readers may enjoy searching each spread for symbols of the author’s heritage (origami cranes and Watari’s family crest), this one-note story falls short in a growing collection of confidence-boosting picture books for children. Background characters have a range of skin tones and body types. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

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