A lavishly illustrated art book with a self-indulgent purpose that may appeal to adults but misses the mark for children’s...

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BRER RABBIT RETOLD

A successful reclamation project—or one that adds to an already-problematic literary history?

Flowers identifies Joel Chandler Harris’ Brer Rabbit stories—tales collected from slaves on a Georgia plantation—as his source material. Harris sought to justify slavery as beneficial to both masters and (contented) slaves, making the stories “narrative minstrelsy.” Flowers writes that as Harris took the slaves’ stories “for his purposes, I’m taking them back for mine.” Throughout this anthology of cultural, visual, and linguistic juxtapositions, readers must wonder what, exactly, is Flowers’ purpose and intended audience for this book? In the 21 tales—some familiar, some less so—the language echoes Black English Vernacular, though inconsistently, while the art, which Indian artist Chitara created in red, black, and white, seems to belong in some other story. Given the histories of colonialism in India and slavery in America, merging these two cultures could create some productive synergy. But due to linguistic inconsistencies and because many of the musical elements—sung or chanted by Flowers on the accompanying CD—translate poorly into text, this mashup results in more confusion than cross-cultural understanding. Though beautiful, Chitara’s art features animals in static poses, some of which are so stylized that young readers may have difficulty using them to make sense of the stories.

A lavishly illustrated art book with a self-indulgent purpose that may appeal to adults but misses the mark for children’s literature. (Picture book/folk tales. 5-10, adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-93-83145-46-1

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Tara Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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This ambitious introduction to an important concept tries too hard to pigeonhole people, places, and things

NOUNS SAY "WHAT'S THAT?"

From the Word Adventures: Parts of Speech series

Anthropomorphized representations of a person, a place, and a thing introduce readers to nouns.

The protagonists are Person, a green, hairy, Cousin Itt–looking blob; Place, a round, blue, globe-ish being (stereotypically implied female by eyelashes and round pigtails); and Thing, a pink cloud with limbs, a porkpie hat, and red glasses. They first introduce the word “noun” and then start pointing out the nouns that fall under each of their categories. In their speech balloons, these vocabulary words are set in type that corresponds to the speaker’s color: “Each wheel is a thing noun,” says Thing, and “wheel” is set in red. Readers join the three as they visit a museum, pointing out the nouns they see along the way and introducing proper and collective nouns and ways to make nouns plural. Confusingly, though, Person labels the “bus driver” a “person noun” on one page, but two spreads later, Thing says “Abdar is a guard. Mrs. Mooney is a ticket taker. Their jobs are things that are also nouns.” Similarly, a group of athletes is a person noun—“team”—but “flock” and “pack” are things. Lowen’s digital illustrations portray a huge variety of people who display many skin and hair colors, differing abilities, and even religious and/or cultural markers (though no one is overweight). Backmatter includes a summary of noun facts, a glossary, an index (not seen), critical-thinking questions, and a list of further reading. Books on seven other parts of speech release simultaneously.

This ambitious introduction to an important concept tries too hard to pigeonhole people, places, and things . (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5158-4058-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Though this has more of a religious bent than most biographies, children should gain an understanding of the new pope as a...

JORGE FROM ARGENTINA

THE STORY OF POPE FRANCIS FOR CHILDREN

Beginning with the emigration of Jorge’s grandparents from Italy to Argentina, this biography traces Bergoglio’s life, concluding with his attendance at World Youth Day in July 2013, as Pope Francis.

This is a much more personal biography (meant for a slightly younger audience) than Pope Francis by Stephanie Watson (2013). Only briefly mentioning Argentina’s “Dirty War” and entirely leaving out the scandals of the Catholic Church and the more publicized examples of Bergoglio’s humility, Monge and Wolfe focus instead on the experiences that shaped Bergoglio’s faith and led him to the priesthood. The text’s lack of a bibliography may lead readers (or their parents) to wonder how the more intimate details of Bergoglio’s life were uncovered, especially with regard to the rather stilted and unnatural-sounding dialogue and internal monologues. Simple, short sentences make this accessible for young readers, though more contextual definitions (or a glossary) would have been helpful, especially for those unfamiliar with the Catholic faith. Also, commas that could help young readers with comprehension are frequently missing, and there are some awkward sentence constructions: “There was always studying or homework to do for school, or help needed around the house.” Kizlauskas’ illustrations are quite realistic looking (if stiff), though they do not always appear on the same spread as the text that accompanies them.

Though this has more of a religious bent than most biographies, children should gain an understanding of the new pope as a person. (Biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8198-4006-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Pauline Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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