Kiki Finds Her Voice: Be True to You and Embrace Your God-Given Gifts – Kierra Sheard-Kelly, Molly Hodgin, and Paul Kellam

Kiki Finds Her Voice: Be True to You and Embrace Your God-Given Gifts by Kierra Sheard-Kelly, Molly Hodgin, Paul Kellam
Published by Zonderkidz on January 23, 2024
Genres: Children's
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When the school talent show creates an issue between her and her friends, little Kiki learns what it means to follow your heart and be a leader. Based on a true story from the life of Grammy-nominated singer and actress Kierra Sheard-Kelly, this inspiring picture book helps kids discover how to best use their God-given gifts and what it means to be true to yourself even when it’s not the popular thing to do.

The school talent show is a big deal, and Kiki is thrilled when the popular girls ask her to perform with them. But when the song her new friends choose turns out to be one Kiki’s parents don’t want her singing, she must decide if it’s more important to be popular and please her friends or speak up and do what she knows is right for her.

Kiki Finds Her Voice helps children ages 4-8:

Learn how to stand up to peer pressure
Embrace their differences and love what makes them unique
Better understand how their faith plays a part in their everyday lives

In addition, Kiki Finds Her Voice is ideal for:

birthday, back-to-school, Christmas, and holiday gifts
bedtime and story time reading
encouraging faith development, and building character and self-confidence

In this upbeat, colorful picture book, gospel singer Kierra Sheard-Kelly tells a fictional story based on a formative event in her childhood. In this story, Kiki feels out of place at school and is excited for the opportunity to perform in the talent show with some popular girls. However, after her mom finds out about the lyrics in the song they’re singing, Kiki gets in trouble, and her family tries to help her see that she can pursue her dreams and follow God. Even though Kiki has to sing on her own, she wins the prize for her performance of a gospel song, and she realizes that she can use her talents to glorify God and fulfill her dreams, instead of having to sacrifice her values to experience success.

Kiki Finds Her Voice is a compelling, fast read. The illustrations from Paul Kellam are beautiful and attention-getting, and they greatly enhance the story. All of the characters look so expressive, and the illustrations are incredibly vibrant and colorful. It’s also nice to see different body types represented in this book, especially since it’s rare to see a plus-size protagonist in a story that isn’t about body image. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I only have a couple critiques. One is that even though the ending is happy and uplifting, I wish that this book hadn’t drawn such a direct link between doing the right thing and experiencing earthly success, since that’s not always how things work.

Also, I wish the story had better explained why Kiki’s mom disapproved of the talent show song choice. The book just says that it’s “a love song,” and that Kiki’s mom doesn’t want her singing a song like that because she isn’t old enough to be in love. It’s clear to older readers that the song involves inappropriate, adult themes about sexuality, but since there are lots of perfectly innocent love songs, some kids may miss the point and think that Kiki’s mom is being unreasonably strict. I wish that the story had conveyed something about why the song lyrics were degrading and harmful, while still being appropriate for a young audience.

In the author’s note at the end, Sheard-Kelly shares more insight into her personal experiences, explaining that when she was a child, she wanted to sing a popular R&B song with her friends in the school talent show. She tried to hide their song choice from her mother, since she knew her mom would disapprove, but her mom found out anyway. Her parents helped her see that it was okay to be different, and that she needed to focus on honoring God and living out her faith, instead of sacrificing her values to fit in. She says that this lesson has helped guide her through her professional career, and she ends this note with a personal encouragement for young readers.

I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it for kids in similar situations. Kiki Finds Her Voice: Be True to You and Embrace Your God-Given Gifts is an uplifting story with an important message, and it will appeal to other Christian kids who are dealing with peer pressure. The story engages with very relatable themes, and it is appropriate for a broad age range. It’s fairly unusual to have a picture book with upper-elementary-aged characters, but the short, illustrated format works well for this story, and it is appropriate for typical picture book audiences and for kids who are around the main character’s age.