A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

CELEBRATE KWANZAA

WITH CANDLES, COMMUNITY, AND THE FRUITS OF THE HARVEST

From the Holidays Around the World series

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

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JESUS IS RISEN!

AN EASTER POP-UP BOOK

Jesus pops up.

“It had been three days since Jesus died on a cross, and his friends were sad.” So Traini (The Life of Martin Luther, 2017) opens his ingenuously retold version of the first Easter. Beginning with two unnamed women clambering down a rocky hill to the graveyard, each of the seven tableaux features human figures with oversized eyes, light brown skin, and solemn or awed expressions posing in a sparsely decorated setting. The women hurry off at the behest of the angel lounging casually in a tomb bedecked with large crystals and fossil seashells to inform the “other disciples” of what’s happened. Along the way the women meet Jesus himself (“Greetings, my friends!”), who goes on to urge disciples “hiding inside a locked room” to touch his discreetly wounded hands. He later shares breakfast (“fish, of course!”) with Peter and others, then ascends from a mountaintop to heaven. Though the 3-D art and the flashes of irreverence set this sketchy rendition of the story apart from more conventional versions, the significance of the event never really comes clear…nor can it match for depth of feeling the stately likes of Jan Pienkowski’s Easter (1983). In the final scene Pentecostal flames appear over the heads of the disciples, leaving them endowed with the gift of tongues and eager to spread the “good news about Jesus!”

Skip. (Pop-up picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5064-3340-0

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

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Worthy intentions squandered on simplistic exhortations.

YOUR VOICE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH (AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT)

An enthusiastic invitation to understand and use our constitutional right to speak out.

Gliding silently over the real-world fact that First Amendment rights apply to minors only in qualified ways, two legal experts who specialize in defending journalists blithely assure young readers in rhyme that they are not only “free to be quiet and free to be LOUD,” but also to pray where they will, to “sign your name to a letter,” to march in protest, to join groups (or not), and to “talk and debate about people in power.” Many will note that a claim that “Freedom belongs to all—even when what we hear sounds icky” leaves an open door for bullying and even unprotected hate speech. (Christy Mihaly and Manu Montoya’s otherwise more nuanced and perceptive Free for You and Me, 2020, similarly overlooks this potential violation of equal protection under the law.) The illustrations collage together a small smiley-face character with arms and a tail with photos of bright-faced, diverse children posing in tights and capes and such iconic First Amendment images as protest marches and the Bill of Rights and other founding documents. They are more decorative than demonstrative, and the closing historical note is not only nearly illegible, being printed in tiny dark type on a blue background, but includes at least one defunct URL.

Worthy intentions squandered on simplistic exhortations. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947951-27-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: City Point Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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