Books by Jamel Akib

Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"A heart-gladdening testament to pulling your own suspenders tight, with a little help from your friends. (Picture book/biography. 6-11)"
Microbanks aren't new, although they are gaining prominence. Here is the story of the first—or at least the formal first—and the one that gained the most notoriety. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"Although didactic and idealized, this broad interpretation of freedom from a Jewish perspective is one not often seen. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A boy's insistence on exercising freedom of religion helps an 18th-century Portuguese-Jewish immigrant community openly practice and observe its faith. Read full book review >
TAN TO TAMARIND by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Released: April 1, 2009

Helping ethnic children find the beauty in themselves is the goal of Iyengar's celebratory cycle, which venerates various hues of brown in each poem. The brown association pulls the poems together, and each begins with the same basic three-line stanza: "Brown. / Ocher brown. / Vivid orange-brown"; "Brown. / Tamarind brown. / Deep purplish-blackish brown." Unfortunately, the poems do little to evoke feelings or establish connections. The limited vocabulary within each makes readers feel as though they are reading the same basic poem; given that the theme is obvious, the use of the word "brown" 125 times results in a metronomic uniformity, sometimes to the point of meaninglessness (just what is "rapid spruce brown"?). Akib's illustrations do not help, as the characters lack ethnic specificity, with only some variations in dress and hair texture. The collection's high point is the closing poem, "Brown," which offers readers pace, variation, rhythm and emotion. Undoubtedly well-intentioned, this effort falls regrettably flat. (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)Read full book review >
DIVALI ROSE by Vashanti Rahaman
Released: Aug. 1, 2008

Set in Trinidad, this tale about cultural identity and the dangers of prejudice gently, though a bit clumsily, makes its way through some tricky subject matter. During the Hindu festival Divali, Ricki wonders what color the blooms in his grandfather's rose garden will be. His grandfather only answers, "Divali color for a Divali rose." Still curious, Ricki tries to see for himself and accidentally snaps off a bud. When the grandfather discovers one of his precious roses missing, he automatically blames the "India people" who live next door. They are new to the Island, he explains, and not true Trinidadian-Indians like Ricki and himself. Only when Grandpa takes Ricki with him to accuse the neighbors does the boy finally confess. The theme of prejudice doesn't cover new ground, but it does cover less familiar geographical territory. Only upon reading the author's note, however, do the complex Trinidadian cultural dynamics become clear. Akib's rich, moody oil pastels set a serious tone. Better for more mature picture-book audiences. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
BRINGING ASHA HOME by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Sept. 15, 2006

On Rakhi Day in August, Arun explains the Indian holiday to his best friend Michael and tells him that it celebrates the bond of brothers and sisters. Arun wishes he had a sister, and in October, his parents tell him that they are going to adopt a baby girl named Asha from his father's birthplace, India. Arun loves making paper airplanes and pretends that they are flying his sister home to him. As the months come and go, pictures arrive in the mail, but telephone calls let the family know that the paperwork is not yet through. Finally, during the summer, the letter the family has been waiting for arrives. Arun's dad flies off to pick Asha up, carrying with him a colorful airplane Arun has made for his new sister. Father and daughter arrive home with a special gift for Arun—a rakhi, a special bracelet for him to wear on Rakhi Day. Appealing illustrations and warm, clear text make this story of a biracial family—Arun's mother is white and his father is Indian—and international adoption a good choice for any collection. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
MONSOON by Uma Krishnaswami
Released: Oct. 6, 2003

Richly colored illustrations and lyrical text portray a girl and her family in India waiting for the monsoon season to begin. "[G]ravelly, grainy, gritty dust" blows on the wind and won't stop until the rains come. The level of anticipation is so high that every engine rumble sounds like thunder. A koel (songbird) sings "in a voice like melting sunshine," and heat waves "dance upon rocks and shimmer over rooftops." Sometimes the viewpoint is angled upward to emphasize the sky's importance. Saturated colors fill every bit of every page (there's no white space at all), fully conveying the hot, dusty air and the sense of impatience. When the "stretching, sweeping sheet of rain" finally arrives, the girl and her brother dance joyously in the street. An expressive story about seasons, extremes, and waiting. (glossary, author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >