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


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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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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A beautifully illustrated Afrocentric story that inspires as it informs.


From the Macy's World series

Macy proposes to celebrate African heritage in a very visible way.

A little brown-skinned Black girl with two Afro puffs, Macy greets her teacher, Miss Brown, and compliments her dress. Miss Brown, who is also Black, identifies the fabric as typical of West Africa. When Macy suggests that her classmates each wear an outfit from a different African country, Miss Brown loves the idea. The following week, Miss Brown points to Kenya on an African map as Naomi models a Kenyan Masai dress made with red shuka cloth and colorful beaded necklaces. Macy’s classmates wear Ghanaian Ashanti kente cloth; Angolan, Namibian and Ethiopian garb; a Nigerian ceremonial outfit, the agbada; a Rwandan Tutsi warrior’s clothing; and a Cameroonian elephant mask with matching outfit. Macy arrives late with a special surprise that makes everyone smile. Freeman’s colorful, detailed illustrations represent children with different hairstyles and skin tones, including one with albinism. A richer story would have given the children personal connections with the countries they represent. But even lacking that, this wonderful display of traditional clothing encourages readers to appreciate diversity within Africa and will spark interest in learning about the origins of these beautiful, colorful fabrics and the people who wear them, since clothing expresses culture in so many ways. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully illustrated Afrocentric story that inspires as it informs. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-913175-18-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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