All Are Neighbors by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

All Are Neighbors by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. 9780593429983

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  A girl in a unicorn print dress opens the door of her new home to find a diverse group of children on the sidewalk, ready to give her a tour of her new neighborhood.  The girl brings along her mom, who is carrying a baby in a carrier; the family follows their tour guides past markets, shops, and homes and are greeted along the way by many friendly faces.  As they go about their daily routines, the people in this city neighborhood are as friendly as they are diverse; everyone is welcome in this community and they all take part in activities like filling a free food fridge and painting a mural (which gives a nod to the creators’ previous popular book All Are Welcome).  Happy people can be seen at every important location on the block – the library, a community center, a green park with a playground.  

So many cultures, languages and religions are represented in the storefronts, restaurants, and buildings as well as the skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing of the neighbors.  All types of family structures are celebrated as well, and the children all play nicely together too.  The new family certainly gets a warm welcome as they move through the neighborhood to the repeated refrain “What is a community?  It’s a place for you and me.  Come along and you’ll see.  We all are neighbors here.”  A gatefold spread at the end brings all of their new friendly neighbors to their door, bearing treats for their new home.    

The rhyming text reinforces themes of sharing and kindness, civic responsibility, and inclusivity.  These well-meaning messages are gently conveyed in the words, but some of the rhymes feel a little clunky and contrived. With just one to four lines of text per page spread, it is the colorful and busy illustrations that really bring the book’s message home, and not in a subtle way.  These pictures are really fun to study; kids will love looking for recurring characters from one page to the next, and enjoy peering into the windows of the homes and businesses to see what’s going on inside.     

Anything you did not like about the book? Unlike the classroom and school settings of All Are Welcome, young readers might have a hard time connecting to this unrealistic neighborhood.  Each page spread is an overwhelming display of happy adults and children engaged in neighborly activities, and even though the sentiment is so important and needed, the details in the illustrations at times feel heavy-handed.    

To whom would you recommend this book? Classrooms and libraries where Penfold and Kaufman’s previous books are popular will want to add it to their collections; it would be useful especially in units on community.

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

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: October 2, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Alexandra Penfold, Author, Illustrator, Inclusion, Neighbors, Suzanne Kaufman and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.