Muddled children’s fantasy that misses the mark.

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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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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