Farmer grew up in Little Burgundy, decades after Oscar. The underlying focus here is the longing for that neighborhood,...

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OSCAR LIVES NEXT DOOR

A STORY INSPIRED BY OSCAR PETERSON'S CHILDHOOD

Farmer’s fictionalized account of Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson riffs on his childhood in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood.

Through Millie, an invented, girl-next-door narrator, Farmer hits the high notes that shaped Peterson’s early life: diligent daily practice on trumpet and piano in a musical family, tuberculosis and a lengthy hospital confinement, and the subsequent realization that Oscar’s weakened lungs made playing the horn impossible. Most of the story is propelled by gentle, fictive vignettes: Oscar and Millie roam the neighborhood, play a prank on Reverend James, and—once Oscar’s back home—daydream together about the future. In between, Oscar’s and Millie’s mothers worry over Oscar’s temporary mutism, and Millie and her mother deliver a handmade card to the hospital. Lafrance’s stylized, digitally colored compositions present the community’s buildings and activities in a serenely nostalgic way. She skillfully incorporates textile patterns for clothing, wallpaper, and household items. Complementary colors of red-orange and teal blue create visual pop together and, when used singly, convey such emotions as anxiety and happiness. The illustrator’s signatures—button eyes, expressive eyebrows, and oddly clownlike mouths—are employed here. Some figural compositions look polished (such as a charming scene with Oscar and siblings on piano and horns); others look fuzzy and indistinct.

Farmer grew up in Little Burgundy, decades after Oscar. The underlying focus here is the longing for that neighborhood, since destroyed by an expressway, even more than the music. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-104-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and...

THE LITTLE RED PEN

Obviously inspired by "The Little Red Hen," this goes beyond the foundation tale's basic moral about work ethic to explore problem solving, teamwork and doing one’s best.

Nighttime at school brings the Little Red Pen out of the drawer to correct papers, usually aided by other common school supplies. But not this time. Too afraid of being broken, worn out, dull, lost or, worst of all, put in the “Pit of No Return” (aka trash), they hide in the drawer despite the Little Red Pen’s insistence that the world will end if the papers do not get corrected. But even with her drive she cannot do it all herself—her efforts send her to the Pit. It takes the ingenuity and cooperation of every desk supply to accomplish her rescue and to get all the papers graded, thereby saving the world. The authors work in lots of clever wordplay that will appeal to adult readers, as will the spicy character of Chincheta, the Mexican pushpin. Stevens’ delightfully expressive desk supplies were created with paint, ink and plenty of real school supplies. Without a doubt, she has captured their true personalities: the buck-toothed stapler, bespectacled scissors and rather empty-headed eraser.

Teachers will certainly find themselves wishing for their own arsenal of supplies to help them with their grading, and students may take a second glance at that innocuous-looking red pen on the teacher’s desk. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-15-206432-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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