Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity.

I AM GANDHI

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Gandhi, the guru of nonviolence, becomes the latest addition to Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series.

After describing Gandhi’s early childhood experiences, the book dives into the racism he experienced in South Africa, the development of his philosophy of “Satyagraha,” or “Truth-Force,” and his critical role in the Indian independence movement. It ends with a brief timeline of Gandhi’s life, some photographs, and suggestions for further reading. Similar to other books in the series, child Gandhi is depicted as an old man, which is quite confusing. This is particularly an issue for Gandhi as he only adopted the dhoti he wears throughout this book in his late 40s while protesting against the British. There are also many instances of cultural insensitivity throughout the book. Crucially, Meltzer distorts Gandhi’s original quote “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” as “I will shake the world.” Gandhi was not known as one to take credit for his successes, much less to claim he could shake the world. Another example of misrepresentation is the narration of an incident in which Gandhi refused to copy from another child despite his teacher’s demand that he do so. The text is inaccurate and omits to mention that the refusal by Gandhi was during an exam. Moreover, the illustration depicts the teacher as an Indian in the act of putting his sandaled foot on the book, which goes against a deep-rooted Indian tradition of respect for books; as Gandhi recorded the story, the teacher had the English name of Mr. Giles and used his boot to prod Gandhi.

Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2870-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

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.

SURVIVOR TREE

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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