Sharing a Smile by Nicki Kramar, illustrated by Ashley Evans. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9781534497856
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? Sophie and her grandpa look out the window into their neighborhood and talk about how everyone is wearing masks to stay safe when they go outside. When they notice Sophie’s friend, Jenny, looking scared inside her house, Sophie has an idea. She and her grandpa sketch and sew, and soon they have made a mask for everyone in their neighborhood, each one reflecting something about their personality: a flowery mask for Mr. Landon, who likes to garden, a mask with butterflies on it for Ms. Diaz, who likes to watch the butterflies, etc. Soon everyone in the diverse neighborhood has a mask, even Jenny, who gives them a big smile.
This is a sweet, reassuring look at the current necessity to wear masks. It addresses the fear a young child may have about going outside in a time when fear is prevalent. Although there is no specific mention of Covid-19, readers will infer that the story takes place early or mid way through the pandemic. Confining the narrative to one about the neighborhood gives a sense of control, in that Sophie can do something to help her neighbors, who are a diverse bunch of Black, Brown, Asian and Latinx people. Acknowledging that smiles can’t be seen behind a mask, but that kindness can help break through, is a nice message. The digital art is uncluttered and portrays an urban neighborhood of houses close together, where kids ride bikes and neighbors wave to one another. Adults may have had it with Covid-19 references, but I think it’s useful to check in with kids about their fears, and this book is a way to do that.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 4-9, as a read aloud for the younger ones, and as a discussion starter for older kids. I can imagine adding a copy to parenting collections along with books about big feelings.
Who should buy this book? Day cares, elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Picture books and/or parenting collections
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: April 6, 2021