Muddled children’s fantasy that misses the mark.

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MAYA AND SPIRITS OF WINTER

Ramey and Abraham’s debut blends Russian folklore with a contemporary children’s story.

In an overly sweet opening, a perfect baby girl is born: “It was as if the baby (sic) new skin was impregnated with sunshine and it radiated outward.” The baby, Maya, is soon afterward diagnosed with scoliosis. Time passes rapidly, and the night before Maya’s sixth birthday, her mother gives her a magical green orb that brightens when Maya holds it. Later that night, her mother mysteriously leaves without explanation. The story progresses quickly through the years, as Maya’s father pursues his Ph.D. in microbiology and Maya takes up snowboarding. She also has a recurring dream of “lightening bugs” with faces that suddenly turn ugly, and she glimpses unusual animals in the snow. Maya meets Dima, a boy from Russia who shares with her some of the folk tales and customs of his country. Eventually, she learns that her visions are of characters from these tales, the Spirits of Winter, who seem evil at first but then help her when she competes in a national snowboarding competition. Blending Russian folk literature with a contemporary setting makes for an intriguing premise, yet the story is underdeveloped and poorly paced. The rushed chapters don’t provide enough space for readers to connect with the characters or understand the confusing mythological aspects of the plot. Before she leaves, Maya’s mother tells her, “Once I became pregnant with you, the human and the beginning of time became one,” a vague but important-sounding statement that is never adequately explained. Maya’s scoliosis, which seems a crucial trait at the beginning, is barely mentioned; it doesn’t affect her snowboarding or provide much of an obstacle for her to overcome. The writing is unpolished, marred by frequent punctuation errors, incorrect word choices (“bazaar sight”), and inconsistent changes in verb tense: “He closed his eyes like he’s seeing her at that moment.” Although Maya does eventually learn the reason for her mother’s departure, the promised reunion is put off until a sequel, resulting in an abrupt ending to a short book.

Muddled children’s fantasy that misses the mark.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4942-8658-3

Page Count: 72

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.

THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK

From the There’s a…in Your Book series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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THE NAME JAR

Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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