Selected Reviews for Secrets I Know

Publisher's Weekly

As this pensive story opens, a girl sits curled up by a window; her dog gazes out at the garden, where rain falls. “I know lots of secrets,” the girl says, addressing readers. “Like... Secrets are for whispering.” A page turn shows her out in the garden, dressed in a raincoat, viewed through leafy branches (“Whispers hide in trees”). “Trees make great umbrellas,” reads another spread, as the girl sits in a tree house with her dog, protected from the rain. Her linked musings progress (“Sunshine marks the spot... for finding buried treasure. True treasure is a friend”), and she’s joined by a friend who helps her retrieve a telescope that they use to stargaze under the same “umbrella” of a tree. Zakimi (Teddy & Co.) draws animals and plants and their varied textures with care, quietly underscoring the small wonders found in a backyard; matte paper and a restrained palette add to the sense of tranquility. George’s (The Lost Gift) poem celebrates nature, friendship, and understanding things not just with the head but with the heart.

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Kirkus Review

A small girl shares her secrets (she knows “lots,” and she knows “secrets are for whispering”). She cups her pale hand, covers her mouth, leans into a puppy’s ear, and begins. Throughout her day (marked by raindrops, seashells, sun, play, and, finally, stars) readers hear the girl’s husky, hushed voice unfurling ribbons of loosely tied thoughts and associations. She relays all she knows: “Whispers hide in trees. / Trees make great umbrellas. / Umbrellas are the perfect boats.” The interconnected (perhaps improvised?) litany goes on and on, while short sentences convey charming clarity and punctuated certainty. Full-bleed, double-page spreads depict playtime vignettes that inspire her secrets, and as these pictures run off the page, succeeding one another fluidly, it’s easy to visualize the girl’s secrets all strung together, a cheerful paper chain of ideas and whimsy. Pencil drawings capture the coyness in her upward-cast eyes, the bounce of her bob, her pursed smile, and the windy, leafy outdoors. Dusky digital coloring—mildly murky browns and greens—clouds the illustrations with a subtle cover of mystery, suggesting both a cloudy day and a shadowy, secretive mood. Once indoors, the mood and pictures brighten, lit up by a beaming friendship with her neighbor, a brown-skinned boy equally excited by stargazing. He also knows that “Stars keep your secrets. / They only tell the trees.” Psst! This book holds delightful secrets. And these secrets shouldn’t be missed. (Picture book. 3-8)

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Horn Book
Whimsical text (“Secrets are for whispering”) and illustrations in muted colors convey the thoughtful interior life of a little girl’s day at play. She heads outside on a windy day with her yellow raincoat, her umbrella, and her lamb-like little dog, noticing that the sound of the blowing leaves makes it sound like “whispers hide in trees.” After waiting out a rain shower in a treehouse, she floats her open umbrella in a puddle, and then sets up a pretend tea party in a sandbox, with seashells for cups and saucers. Each double-page spread holds just one phrase or sentence (occasionally, two), but the story is told largely through the illustrations, so children will linger to see what the girl and dog do next. Zakimi’s digitally colored pencil illustrations play with the thickness of lines to give texture. Toward the end, the little girl (who is white) visits with a brown-skinned friend, and the two return together to the treehouse with a telescope to look at the sky: “Stars keep your secrets. They only tell the trees. And trees make great umbrellas. Which you already know.” This quiet picture book celebrates the joys of observation and old-fashioned playtime.

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School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1–A girl explores the secrets in her backyard in this whimsical picture book that celebrates a child’s imagination. The poetic text builds the story one idea at a time as she moves about her day. “I know lots of secrets. Like…/Secrets are for whispering./Whispers hide in trees./Trees make great umbrellas./Umbrellas are the perfect boats.” Each verse is accompanied by subtle, full-page, digitally rendered pencil drawings, in muted earth tone colors, that quietly share her secrets with others. The child’s adventure leads to finding treasure in a friend and confiding secrets in the stars, who tell only the trees, as the lyrical word association brings the narrative full circle. VERDICT The large format makes this serene tale perfectly suited for one-on-one or small group reading, as it thoroughly captures the inspiring wonders of a day of play in one’s own backyard.
~ Kristine M. Casper, Huntington Public Library, NY

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Waking Brain Cells Review
A little girl spends a rainy day playing in her backyard and sharing secrets with the reader. She knows lots of secrets like secrets are for whispering and whispers hide in trees. She uses the tree as an umbrella and then her umbrella as a boat for her toys. She and her puppy play in the sandbox and have a tea party there, the sunshine sweetening the tea. A friend joins her and they play dress up and then head outside to the trees once again when darkness falls and the stars come out.

George writes with a poetic simplicity here. In the little girl’s voice, she chains together the different experiences she is having, each one leading naturally to the next. It’s rather like a daisy-chain of a picture book spent outside and having a wonderful time whether on her own or with a friend.

Zakimi’s illustrations are detailed and filled with warmth. The blustery and rainy day is shown as an opportunity to play outside and have fun, not as anything that limits activities. Even darkness can’t stop the little girl from enjoying herself outdoors as stars fill the sky. The use of just one backyard as the canvas for the day shows how large imagination can be and how much fun can be had.

A simple book with lots of big ideas, this picture book shows how any day can be a special one. 

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Book Page Review
In her raincoat and boots, an eager girl and her puppy are ready to follow the breezes in their backyard. After rain sends her scampering for shelter, leftover puddles are just the beginning of an adventure. Following her imagination and unfazed by the changing weather, she hosts a seashell tea party, sends her toys on a mini nautical adventure and eventually recruits a friend for one final quest.

Told in first person with simple words, Secrets I Know lets imaginations flourish. Kallie George makes good use of personification and metaphors, lending an extra bit of poetic enchantment. Paola Zakimi illustrates with a zoomed-in intensity, drawing readers deep within the tale through scenes that are as lush and soft as the best-kept gardens. Varying shades of green recall our own childhood memories, when everything was bigger and more wondrous. Each page is worth exploring, with wild animals, toys and tucked-away bicycles.

Secrets I Know feels both timeless and fresh, like an old classic that has faded just enough without losing its sense of wonder.

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Mundie Kids Blog

A charming, whimsical read with beautiful illustrations that capture the heart of imagination, the wonder of nature, and the magical world of this book. The team work between George's simple, poetic words, and Zakimi's stunning illustrations, make for a timeless treasure that can be treasured for generations. This is a book worth picking up! 

What's more fun on a rainy day than allowing your imagination to soar. This young girl does this. Taking a grand adventure in her backyard, she shares secrets with readers on her discoveries outdoors. Like the trees in her backyard becoming umbrellas, which can turn into boats. Seashells in her sandbox are great for becoming sauces and tiny tea cups. There are many more secrets this young girl shares. It's worth picking up this book to find out what they are. 

We absolutely LOVED this book, and highly recommend picking it up. It's a beautiful mix of simple, poetic storytelling, and visual stunning artwork. 

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Jen Robinson's Book Page

Secrets I Know, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Paola Zakimi, is a gentle story about play, alone and with a friend, and appreciating the outdoors. It's not so much a story as a series of connected incidents, each described by a short sentence, taking place over the course of a day in the life of a little girl. The text, with simple vocabulary, and the incidents that take place, are all preschooler-friendly. No parents are visible anywhere in the story, which takes place mainly in the girl's backyard. 

The text is quiet, like this (across the first 3 page spreads): "Secrets are for whispering. / Whispers hide in trees. / Trees make great umbrellas."

Even reading this to myself, I wanted to whisper. I think that the way the sentences connect from page to page, "whispering" to "whispers", etc., lends a poetry to the text. It feels like a perfect bedtime book to me. But I can also imagine using Secrets I Know for more interactive reading. Once your preschooler picks up on the pattern, you can ask her to predict what's going to happen next. 

I just love that this girl is out by herself, on a slightly rainy day, playing in a very simple treehouse, having a tea party for her toys in the sandbox, using an umbrella as a pretend boat, etc. Then when she goes next door to find her friend, things get a bit more complex (building a robot costume, taking down a telescope from a shelf). There's a timeless feel to all of this, and one can imagine it inspiring kids to want to play imagination games on their own. 

Zakimi's illustrations (drawn in pencil and digitally colored) are lovely, and perfectly complement the story. Zoom in on that cover, if you will. The nameless little girl is adorable, from her wavy brown hair down to her ballet-flat-covered feet. Her friend is African-American, adding a bit of seamless, unselfconscious diversity. The back yard is delightful, full of trees and puddle, with the girl's cozy-looking house in the background, and a dog cavorting about, lending subtle humor. I especially liked the illustrator's use of light, as the day shifts from rain to sunlight to evening stars. 

Secrets I Know is one of those books that you appreciate a little bit more on each reading. If it had been around when my daughter was three, I believe this would have been one that we read every night and referred to during the day ("Together, friends are ladders" or "You can sweeten tea with sunshine"). I think it would make the perfect gift for a three or four year old, and an excellent choice for library storytime. Secrets I Know is highly recommended, and going on my "to give as gifts" list.