Humorous enough in both text and illustrations, but the message is muddled.



The true story of a racehorse that failed to win a single contest.

Thoroughbred racehorse Zippy Chippy comes from exalted bloodlines. But racehorse genes notwithstanding, Zippy is slow on the track and, the narrative implies, not terribly competitive. “Instead of running, Zippy sometimes stood perfectly still.” However, when he did (finally) finish a race, he “would prance off the course, head and tail held high.” So it’s confusing when the story then tells readers that his owner, Felix Monserrate, “felt that Zippy needed a win…to boost his morale” and tries various ways to turn Zippy into a winner. Zippy continues to race, and the quirky, pokey horse becomes a crowd favorite. At Zippy’s last race, his 100th, he takes a moment—after the starting bell—to bow to the crowd. (He finishes last.) Author Bennett’s ending salvo, “it takes guts to compete [and] courage to dream.…[Y]ou can lose…and still be a winner,” is rallying, but the body of the story doesn’t quite get there, instead placing more emphasis on Monserrate’s attempts to turn Zippy into a winner rather than validating Zippy’s quirky personality. Szalay’s full-color illustrations have a lively, angular appearance with well-thought-out perspectives and effectively utilize both full-page and double-page spreads. Monserrate is Puerto Rican, and other humans depicted are diverse.

Humorous enough in both text and illustrations, but the message is muddled. (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4396-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.


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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A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived.


A remarkable tree stands where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared.

Through simple, tender text, readers learn the life-affirming story of a Callery pear tree that grew and today still flourishes “at the foot of the towers.” The author eloquently describes the pre-9/11 life of the “Survivor Tree” and its heartening, nearly decadelong journey to renewal following its recovery from the wreckage of the towers’ destruction. By tracking the tree’s journey through the natural cycle of seasonal changes and colors after it was found beneath “the blackened remains,” she tells how, after replanting and with loving care (at a nursery in the Bronx), the tree managed miraculously to flourish again. Retransplanted at the Sept. 11 memorial, it valiantly stands today, a symbol of new life and resilience. Hazy, delicate watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork powerfully traces the tree’s existence before and after the towers’ collapse; early pages include several snapshotlike insets capturing people enjoying the outdoors through the seasons. Scenes depicting the towers’ ruins are aptly somber yet hopeful, as they show the crushed tree still defiantly alive. The vivid changes that new seasons introduce are lovingly presented, reminding readers that life unceasingly renews itself. Many paintings are cast in a rosy glow, symbolizing that even the worst disasters can bring forth hope. People depicted are racially diverse. Backmatter material includes additional facts about the tree.

A lovely 20th-anniversary tribute to the towers and all who perished—and survived. (author's note, artist's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48767-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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