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USHA AND THE BIG DIGGER

From the Storytelling Math series

Read for the illustrations and the characters (but not the math).

Usha loves two things: trucks and cartwheels (although she’s still not quite sure how to do a cartwheel).

When her big sister, Aarti, points out the Big Dipper while stargazing, Usha doesn’t see a scoop at all; instead, she sees a truck. Usha confidently tells her sister that the constellation (or, more accurately, as Knight notes in the backmatter, the asterism) she’s seeing isn’t a big dipper—it’s a big digger. Things get even more complicated when the girls’ cousin Gloria comes over the next night. Gloria doesn’t see the constellation as a scoop or a truck; she sees it as a kite! Through all of this, Usha practices her cartwheels. Each of the girls is convinced that the others are seeing the stars in the wrong way, until Usha flops on the ground after a failed cartwheel and realizes that the constellation is, in fact, a scoop, a truck, and a kite, depending on its orientation. This latest edition to the Storytelling Math series features stunning illustrations of dark-skinned South Asian protagonists, with Gloria apparently biracial (Black/South Asian). The book bursts with charming images of endearing kids, and the story’s presentation of the girls’ varying, equally valid perspectives is a valuable tool for promoting empathy. However, its success at demonstrating the principle of orientation via a constellation is imperfect; any of the concrete examples in the backmatter would have worked better.

Read for the illustrations and the characters (but not the math). (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62354-202-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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HOW TO CATCH A MAMASAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series.

Another creature is on the loose.

The long-running series continues its successful formula with this Hallmark card of a book, which features bright illustrations and catchy rhymes. This time, the mythical creature the racially diverse children set out to catch is an absent mom who does it all (lists of descriptors include the words banker, caregiver, nurse, doctor, driver, chef, housekeeper, teacher, entertainer, playmate, laundry service, problem solver, handywoman, cleaner, and alarm clock) but doesn’t seem to have a job outside the home and is inexplicably a dinosaur. As the children prepare gifts and a meal for her, the text becomes an ode to the skills the Mamasaurus possesses (“Day or night she’s always there. / She meets every wish and need”) and values she instills (“Sometimes life can mean hard work,” “kindness matters,” and “what counts is doing your best”). This well-intentioned selection veers into cliche generously sprinkled with saccharine but manages to redeem itself with its appreciation for mothers and all that they may do. Endpapers include a “to” and “from” page framed in a heart, as well as a page where young gift givers or recipients can draw a picture of their Mamasaurus.

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728274300

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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