This pleasant children’s adventure needs some tweaking for tone and illustrations.

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Guinea: The Invasion of the Ant Creatures

Diallo’s (No Fear: A Personal Memoir or My Journey with God, 2014) first picture book sees a superpowered family save its West African village from marauding ant monsters in by a first-time children’s author.

This original folktale-style fantasy spins a modest “Once upon a time” tale of a family—a mother, father, two boys, and one girl—in a small village in the West African country of Guinea. Each family member “possessed wonderful and supernatural powers that were only to be used for benevolent purposes.” Mother Mariama’s power has to do with cultivating crops; Mamadou, the father, never comes home from the hunt empty-handed. Big brother Bourouma can leap as high as the moon, while little brother Bouba can shrink objects and hear far away sounds, and sister Mimi can see great distances. One night, the girl spots a horde of spear-wielding “half-human, half-ant creatures” closing in on their village, and the three children use their powers to defeat the creatures. In folktale fashion, this involves covering the moon with a large cloth and shrinking the invaders into dust. The illustrations are colorful but pedestrian. And while the story has action to spare, Diallo might consider reworking the stilted aftermath: Mother and Father and the other villagers are mostly unaware that an epic battle has taken place; when the children relate their adventure, they are praised for working together: “We are very proud of all of you and are even happier that all of you defeated the creatures as a team,” the mom tells them. Diallo includes a hand-drawn map and facts about Guinea’s geography, language, economy and more; a vocabulary-boosting glossary offers mostly age-appropriate definitions of such words as “Abundance” (“plenty”), “Beaming” (“smiling”), “Realization” (“understanding”), and “Sturdy” (“strong”). “Confirmed” is less helpfully defined as “validated.”

This pleasant children’s adventure needs some tweaking for tone and illustrations.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-51-270704-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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LAST DAY BLUES

From the Mrs. Hartwell's Classroom Adventures series

One more myth dispelled for all the students who believe that their teachers live in their classrooms. During the last week of school, Mrs. Hartwell and her students reflect on the things they will miss, while also looking forward to the fun that summer will bring. The kids want to cheer up their teacher, whom they imagine will be crying over lesson plans and missing them all summer long. But what gift will cheer her up? Numerous ideas are rejected, until Eddie comes up with the perfect plan. They all cooperate to create a rhyming ode to the school year and their teacher. Love’s renderings of the children are realistic, portraying the diversity of modern-day classrooms, from dress and expression to gender and skin color. She perfectly captures the emotional trauma the students imagine their teachers will go through as they leave for the summer. Her final illustration hysterically shatters that myth, and will have every teacher cheering aloud. What a perfect end to the school year. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58089-046-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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