I AM GANDHI

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity.

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. 15, 2017

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

FRIDA KAHLO AND HER ANIMALITOS

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist.

Frida Kahlo’s strong affection for and identification with animals form the lens through which readers view her life and work in this picture-book biography.

Each two-page spread introduces one or more of her pets, comparing her characteristics to theirs and adding biographical details. Confusingly for young readers, the beginning pages reference pets she owned as an adult, yet the illustrations and events referred to come from earlier in her life. Bonito the parrot perches in a tree overlooking young Frida and her family in her childhood home and pops up again later, just before the first mention of Diego Rivera. Granizo, the fawn, another pet from her adult years, is pictured beside a young Frida and her father along with a description of “her life as a little girl.” The author’s note adds important details about Kahlo’s life and her significance as an artist, as well as recommending specific paintings that feature her beloved animals. Expressive acrylic paintings expertly evoke Kahlo’s style and color palette. While young animal lovers will identify with her attachment to her pets and may enjoy learning about the Aztec origins of her Xolo dogs and the meaning of turkeys in ancient Mexico, the book may be of most interest to those who already have an interest in Kahlo’s life.

A supplemental rather than introductory book on the great artist. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Close Quickview