MY FRIEND THE PIANO

A girl discovers the piano and starts composing in this entry from Cowan (My Life With the Wave), a very loose adaptation of a story by An°bal Menterio Machado. Although the piano and the girl are clearly soul mates, what is music to the girl’s ears is poison to her mother’s: “That is not playing. It’s noise.” The mother orders lessons, but both girl and piano balk at the routine and the stifling of their creativity. The practice sessions are flat or sharp or atonal, never fun or successful. When it looks as if a grandmother is going to come to live with them, the mother puts the piano up for sale, but it misbehaves for prospective buyers. Indeed, the piano, as a piano, can’t be given away; the woman who claims it plans to turn it into stripped and painted storage. The piano literally bristles at this outrage; Hawkes has ably and elegantly shaped the artwork for this book, in perfect concord with Cowan’s words. In the process of delivering the piano—the girl and her father are rolling it to its fate—the instrument, with the girl on top, makes its escape into the wide blue sea (she jumps off at the last minute). The piano serenades the girl with symphonies carried to the shore on breezes from distant climes while she composes “for pots and pans,” a musical undertaking that serves those wretched parents right. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-13239-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

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EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80.5% of actual size.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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