An ever-timely message, told in (two) primary colors.

VOTE FOR ME!

What does it say that the nature and quality of our national political debate should be so baldly captured in a book for 4-year-olds?       

Newcomer Clanton's candidates are a donkey and an elephant, economically if emotively drawn on fields of blue and red. Yes, we know who these characters are, even more so when they start to address the reader, aka the potential voter. First come the soft sell, the loopy promises and idle boasts—"Do you like CANDY?" "I'm a SUPER CUTE elephant!"—then come the ad hominem attacks: "Well, you certainly do, you big, STINKY pooper scooper," or, drawing from Spiro Agnew's playbook, "belching beast of burden." Finally, they sling enough mud that the electorate takes its business elsewhere. It is a painful point well made, that these candidates are laughable when not plain embarrassing. But even if the name-calling has a measure of low humor at first, it soon pales—something that Clanton's book threatens to do before its neat twist—in direct proportion to its sustenance on either the entertainment or intellectual front, as any 4-year-old will tell you. Read it with Eileen Christelow's splendid Vote! (2003) if you want that 4-year-old to actually learn anything, though.

An ever-timely message, told in (two) primary colors. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55453-822-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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HOW CHIPMUNK GOT HIS STRIPES

A TALE OF BRAGGING AND TEASING

Noted storyteller Bruchac (Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving, p. 1498, etc.) teams up with his son, James (Native American Games and Stories, not reviewed) to present a pourquoi tale from the East Coast Native American tradition. Bear is undeniably big; he is also a braggart, given to walking through the forest and proclaiming his superiority to all within earshot: “I can do anything! Yes, I can!” When he hears this, little Brown Squirrel challenges Bear to tell the sun not to rise the next day. This Bear does, and when the sun does in fact rise despite his injunction not to, Brown Squirrel unwisely gloats: “Bear is foolish, the sun came up. Bear is silly, the sun came up.” Thanks to trickery, Brown Squirrel escapes with his life, but not before Bear claws the stripes into his back that cause him to change his name to Chipmunk. The Bruchacs translate the orality of the tale to written text beautifully, including dialogue that invites audience participation. Aruego and Dewey’s (Mouse in Love, p. 886, etc.) signature cartoon-like illustrations extend the humor of the text perfectly. One spread shows the faces of all the animals rejoicing in the yellow light of the newly risen sun—all except Bear, whose glower contrasts ominously with Brown Squirrel’s glee. Clever use of perspective emphasizes the difference in size between boastful Bear and his pint-sized trickster opponent. Authors’ notes precede the story, explaining the history of the tale and each teller’s relationship to it. A winner. (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2404-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Thanks, but no thanks.

GROW GRATEFUL

A little girl learns that being grateful is key to being “a happy camper.”

The opening text shifts awkwardly from present to past tense as the narrator, Kiko, shares that she’s excited and nervous about an upcoming overnight school camping trip. The book’s focus is on Kiko’s shifting feelings about the trip, which she ends up enjoying, in large part because she takes the time to feel grateful for small moments while she also absorbs others’ gratitude and thereby feels appreciated. Unfortunately, while Lyles’ illustrations are warm and inviting, the text is far from accessible and engaging. A character named Jasmine is introduced by name on an early spread, but it’s uncertain who she is, as Kiko’s parents tell their daughter that “this trip is for you, Jasmine, and all your classmates and Ms. Cooper.” Is Jasmine a classmate? This isn’t clarified until her third mention several spreads later. Later, a massive text block set against a cloud of steam rising from a cooking pot at the campsite defines what grateful means. This didactic, wordy moment seems downright concise compared to the three-page “reader’s note” at the book’s end. Kiko’s name and physical appearance suggest that she’s of Asian descent, but her parents are white-appearing.

Thanks, but no thanks. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4338-2903-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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