"A hurricane can’t dampen the spirits of a little girl and her vibrant neighborhood in this children’s book for young readers."– Kirkus Reviews
A girl punished on Halloween devises a clever plan to get some treats in this picture book.
Zara “Zee” Harerra Lago, a girl with dark skin and hair who wears square glasses and braids, can’t believe it when her parents discipline her on Halloween for some misbehavior. But they mean it, and Zee has to miss out on trick-or-treating and the next day’s classroom candy exchange. She gathers her friends to listen to her tale of how on Halloween night, she escaped from a jungle filled with dangerous beasts headed this way: “I know the jungle and this is a fact: / When people get tooken they never come back!” She’ll trade her survival secret for candy—and they’d better hurry, because a purple monster (a student named DB in costume) is already here. The two schemers enjoy their loot, but as the story ends, Zee’s parents are onto her. Byrd (Sunny Days, 2018, etc.) offers a delightful, mischievous heroine whose shenanigans are reminiscent of when Tom Sawyer bamboozles friends into whitewashing a fence. The verse is strong (although line endings don’t always correspond with the rhymes) and amusing, which keeps the book from being too scary. The animals get wonderfully original descriptions, such as the giant zebra with “skin like a barcode.” Meissner’s (Chris Drops a Bomb!, 2018) illustrations vividly depict people and animals and include good background details, such as Zee’s monster posters.
A charmingly naughty, monster-loving heroine; effective verse; and appealing illustrations shine in this Halloween tale.
A hurricane can’t dampen the spirits of a little girl and her vibrant neighborhood in this children’s book for young readers.
Martine, curly-haired and brown-skinned, is an optimistic girl, the kind who skips to school and enjoys every feature of her mostly African-American neighborhood. And who wouldn’t love it. The streets are lined with brightly painted and appealing businesses owned by friendly proprietors. But Hurricane Willis wrecks the town, leaving people gloomy. The irrepressible Martine has an idea that fills her with new energy: She greets each good-weather day by name—for example, “Hey, Lisa girl!”; “Bonjour, Penelope”; or “Ello, Jill!” Why? “People on TV named the rainy days ‘Willis.’ Well, I want to name the sunny days too,” she explains to one storekeeper. He spreads the word, which inspires the neighborhood to start rebuilding. Martine helps, and soon the area is brighter and happier than ever: “People in her community found new joy and strength in each other and themselves.” Byrd (King Penguin, 2017) presents a young heroine who fairly bursts with energy, optimism, and exuberance, exploding into exclamation points when Martine regains her optimism: “She wiggled into her school clothes! She brushed her teeth in a flash!” Martine’s spirit is echoed in the neighborhood’s pre- and post-hurricane abundance: Mr. Pip’s Bakery is full of yummy treats that smell delicious; the students at Ms. Shirley’s Music Studio sometimes spill outside with their instruments, making people dance in the streets; and Mr. Johnny’s Grocery Store has “peaches so big you needed to hold them with two hands.” Ku’s (Silly Face Castle, 2017, etc.) full-page illustrations beautifully convey Martine’s emotions and the neighborhood’s moods as well as its diversity. Given the book’s preference for optimism, it downplays the real difficulties—financial, emotional, and logistical—of recovery after a major hurricane. Everyone, it seems, can easily afford to rebuild; no one lost a prized possession, a family member, or even a pet; no one has nightmares, depression, or lasting stress. Children who are less resilient post-disaster could find it hard to relate to Martine’s buoyancy.
A sunny tale for rainy days that encourages energy and hope.