The inspiring story of a man who believes in the power of books and the importance of community.

DIGGING FOR WORDS

JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT

The story of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector who built a library for his neighborhood in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, out of books he collected on his route through the wealthier neighborhoods of the city.

Proving the old saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, Gutiérrez searched “the household trash for hidden treasure…books!” Caught up in the first book he found long ago—Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy—and read over and over again and realizing the strength to be found in words, he eventually created a library out of his findings. In parallel, the book tells the story of a fictional boy, also named José, who counts the days until it is Saturday, when he and the other children in the neighborhood can enter Paradise—Gutiérrez’s library. Illustrator Escobar beautifully captures the distinctive architecture of a working-class neighborhood in Bogotá as well as its multiethnic and varied inhabitants. Readers will be transported through the artwork into the settings of some of the books mentioned, from the ballrooms of faraway Russia through “the magical village” of Macondo, with its yellow butterflies, and on to Treasure Island and the Little Prince’s planet. In the aftermatter, readers learn that today Gutiérrez also directs a foundation he created that “provides reading materials to schools, organizations, and libraries across Colombia.”

The inspiring story of a man who believes in the power of books and the importance of community. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984892-63-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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