The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague,  illustrated by Brad and Kristi Montague

The Circles All Around Us by Brad Montague,  illustrated by Kristi and Brad Montague. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021. 9780593323182

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  An unseen narrator opens this ode to inclusiveness by imagining a child drawing a circle around their shoes. This is a safe but lonely space, so the child is encouraged to let more and more people into the circle, at first just family, but then friends and neighbors as well. The illustrations feature simply drawn humans of all races and ages using pastel-shaded watercolors. A large double-page spread shows the child next to a globe with multiple talk bubbles shouting hello in various languages. The narrator acknowledges that opening our circle up to those with whom we feel little initial connection may feel uncomfortable at first, but will lead to “wonderful things…when love is known and felt everywhere.” For this double-page spread, we see children and adults, including one little girl in a wheelchair, sharing donuts and looking very happy, the circle ebbing out from the main character. The text rhymes and is rendered by Brad Montague in a cute and clear hand-written font.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It’s a message book. I found it heavy-handed and lacking in interest. I also thought the rhyme scheme was a bit creaky. There wouldn’t be much to talk about afterwards, although it could anchor an activity about who’s in your circle. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  It’s possible some classroom teachers would find this book useful, especially if their districts employ a Circle of Friends curriculum. I can see it being a read aloud for preK to Grade 1. 

Who should buy this book? Preschools, elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: August 30, 2021

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