Well-intentioned and superficially attractive, this celebration of children and culture ultimately fails to educate or...

I AM THE WORLD

Once again, Smith offers appealing portraits of children in an effort to express the value of diversity (My People, by Langston Hughes, 2009, etc.).

Unfortunately the photographs are of varying quality, the brief text is often banal and repetitive, and some design choices obscure the artwork. Each picture, whether on a single page or double-page spread is captioned with a sentence that begins “I am....” In some cases, the words that follow are evocative and the images compelling: “I am the thread in kente cloth” accompanies a photo of a young, black woman gazing unsmiling into the camera. In others, the words chosen seem odd or inconsequential. Two of the weakest descriptions, “I am the snap in biscotti” and “I am the tradition in pierogi,” fail to effectively convey anything about the cultures they are meant to represent, and the playful, obviously posed photos wind up looking peculiar. On most pages, crisp, clear, white letters stand out against the black background with some words, usually one per page, printed in color to add visual interest. On a few pages, however, words printed across the faces of the children are distracting and difficult to read. Finally, while the appended glossary does offer basic definitions of the words and phrases used, it fails to effectively explain their pronunciation.

Well-intentioned and superficially attractive, this celebration of children and culture ultimately fails to educate or entertain. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2302-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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