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

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 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020


From the Celebrate the World series

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019


Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses.

An NBA star pays tribute to the influence of his grandfather.

In the same vein as his Long Shot (2009), illustrated by Frank Morrison, this latest from Paul prioritizes values and character: “My granddad Papa Chilly had dreams that came true,” he writes, “so maybe if I listen and watch him, / mine will too.” So it is that the wide-eyed Black child in the simply drawn illustrations rises early to get to the playground hoops before anyone else, watches his elder working hard and respecting others, hears him cheering along with the rest of the family from the stands during games, and recalls in a prose afterword that his grandfather wasn’t one to lecture but taught by example. Paul mentions in both the text and the backmatter that Papa Chilly was the first African American to own a service station in North Carolina (his presumed dream) but not that he was killed in a robbery, which has the effect of keeping the overall tone positive and the instructional content one-dimensional. Figures in the pictures are mostly dark-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Blandly inspirational fare made to evoke equally shrink-wrapped responses. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-81003-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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