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 unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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