An engaging tale for beginning readers about contending with the stress of everyday life from a child’s perspective.

OH SUSANNAH

IT'S IN THE BAG

From the An Oh Susannah Story series , Vol. 1

A young girl deals with the pressures of school and family.

In this chapter book, Roman (One to Ten, 2017, etc.) introduces Susannah Maya Logan, the white, blonde-haired star of a new series. Third-grader Susannah’s day begins in a bad place, as she confronts the math homework left unfinished before going down to breakfast—late, to her mother’s annoyance—where the frustrations build. But with both parents pressed for time (“It was as if their whole life revolved around that big clock. Its ornate oversized hands dictated whether breakfast would be rushed or whether dinner would be meatloaf with a mountain of mashed potatoes or a quick pizza from Phil’s”), Susannah is prevented from sharing her concerns about school. An uneaten banana joins the uncompleted homework in her backpack, which grows heavier with the addition of an invitation to a friend’s sleepover—in a potentially haunted house—a failed math quiz, and two library books as Susannah moves through the day unable to discuss her problems with anyone. The backpack and the strains it represents expand even more in Susannah’s mind than they do in reality until they explode in a nightmare that brings her parents to her bedroom and leads to a heartfelt discussion about coping techniques (“You let your work control you, rather than the other way around”) and improved communication. Roman does a good job of capturing the frustrations of both Susannah and her overstretched parents, portraying all three as victims of circumstances rather than antagonists. The simple but enjoyable story, taking place in a single day, covers a topic familiar to many young readers and delivers a vocabulary and writing style appropriate for audiences graduating from the Junie B. Jones series and similar works. Although there is a clear message, Roman’s story—which features mostly black and white images by Arkova (Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?, 2017, etc.)—avoids outright didacticism. The final pages leave Susannah’s sleepover fears unresolved, setting up a clear launching point for the sequel.

An engaging tale for beginning readers about contending with the stress of everyday life from a child’s perspective.

Pub Date: April 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5430-3461-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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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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