Luminous artwork is the highlight of this child’s introduction to the Silk Road.




As a pebble that is “cool like the stream where I found it” travels the length of the Silk Road from China to Italy, exquisite, expressive artwork counterbalances a timeworn plot.

Mei, a young girl living in China in the ninth century, would like to travel the Silk Road. Instead, she must content herself with persuading her silk-merchant father to start her chosen gift of a pebble on a trip beyond his stretch of travel to “a child at the end of the road.” Tommaso, whose father is a kindly pirate, is the eventual recipient of the pebble and other gifts accumulated from, among others, a monk and a thief during the pebble’s journey. Preschoolers will enjoy the repetition of the phrase that concludes each transfer of the pebble, variations on “a gift from a girl…in the land where the sun rises.” There is gentle reciprocity in the piece of glass that Mei receives from Italy, but why, after a mere two years, does the story end with Mei’s father inexplicably deciding that Mei might, after all, make that dangerous journey next time? The richly detailed, lavishly colored watercolors authentically introduce diversity and history, but the first and final pages read rather like a nod-to-feminism afterthought. Facts embedded in the text are supplemented by a generous addendum.

Luminous artwork is the highlight of this child’s introduction to the Silk Road. (maps, author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-715-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Share this with young readers as a series of homilies on dreams and a family love strong enough to overcome any adversity.


Frederick Douglass’ mother imparts 12 lessons, one for each mile she walks on her clandestine nighttime visits to him.

The author has taken as her inspiration the line from Douglass’ writings in which he remembers his mother teaching him that he was “somebody’s child.” Douglass was in fact separated from his mother as an infant and rarely saw her. She died when he was 7. In this story, she walks the 12 miles from plantation to plantation and shares with him what each means. The first mile is for forgetting about being tired, and the following miles are for praying, giving thanks to God, singing, smiling, hoping to live together as a family, dreaming about freedom and loving her son, among others. In this, her debut effort, Armand focuses on the positive aspects of maternal devotion and a mother’s dreams of greatness for her son. The full-page watercolor paintings capture the nighttime setting and depict a loving mother and child with no overt signs of the horrors of slavery. Unfortunately, the text is sometimes difficult to read on the dark background.

Share this with young readers as a series of homilies on dreams and a family love strong enough to overcome any adversity. (afterword) (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60060-245-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Overall, merely adequate.


The grass has been greener on the other side for millennia—just ask our prehistoric friend Dave.

Dave lives in a cave decorated with realistic wall paintings, there’s green grass outside, and his woodland friends—a bird and a squirrel—enjoy spending time at his prehistoric bachelor pad. Yet even with all of his comforts, Dave is worried that he may be missing out on a bigger and better cave. It’s this fear that drives Dave out to find a better home and leads readers to question if the grass really is greener on the other side. While readers ponder the existential gravitas of this inquiry, they’ll follow Dave as he travels from caves that are too small, too big, etc. Unsurprisingly, the cave that Dave ultimately ends up in is very familiar. The message of the book is strong, but the writing weakens the point through irregular cavemanspeak that includes words such as “quite” and “cozy” but misses basic verbs. Adults reading the book aloud will quickly tire of the narrative style. The digitally created illustrations are done in the collage style but lack the energy and whimsy of the medium. Dave’s pale skin tone and mop of green hair are roughly styled in The Flintstones school, but he is far more inscrutable than Fred or Barney ever were; his facial expressions do not easily reflect the emotional responses of his situations.

Overall, merely adequate. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9628-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet