An intriguing concept waylaid by snark.




This collaboration pairs compelling vintage photographs of children, chosen from Radunsky’s extensive collection, with Raschka’s 26 flippant, three-line verses.

The late-19th- and early-20th-century photographs capture images of children dressed in their best costumes and shoes, formally posed in photographers’ studios. Radunsky’s elegant, child-friendly afterword explains that the expense of photographic images caused families to reserve them only for special occasions. Inviting speculation that these children “could have been our great-great-great-grandparents,” he suggests that the photos offer “an extraordinary chance to see what our great-great-great-grandparents looked like when they were children.” Raschka’s alliterative triplets (arranged alphabetically by the invented names of the pictured children) aim to amuse but clank more than they click. The verses contrive characteristics and emotions for the arbitrarily named children, seeming distinctly out of step with Radunsky’s respectful, historically grounded approach. At “G,” Raschka writes: “Gifted Glenda Grace / Glows gorgeously with a grin / Half as wide as her face.” In the image, a toddler in a fancy dress and big hair bow (both tinted pink) leans against a low table, her hands on an open book. Wide-eyed, she displays a tentative half-smile, more Mona Lisa than Minnie Mouse. The poems not only intentionally sidestep the cultural identities of the depicted children (mostly West European and white), but employ ill-advised terms like “manhandles” and “unmans” in poems about “Merry Margo Maxine” and “Uppity Ursula Uma.”

An intriguing concept waylaid by snark. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59017-817-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will...


Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation.

Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. “Oy,” says Aunt Essy. “Feh,” says Aunt Chanah. “So?” says Uncle Sam. “That was all they ever said!” Despite the children’s parents’ attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children’s enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts’ and uncle’s behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors.

While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-148-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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It’s pretty to look at, but it’s too generic to be an essential addition to an autumnal-themed book collection.


Autumn’s arrival sends an oak leaf on a windswept adventure against dappled, pointillist-style paintings.

A leaf appears, distinct and crisp against the gauzy background. It’s an eye-catching burst of gold and umber that contrasts with the lovely, if unexpectedly spring-y, Monet-inspired pastel colors. As the text catalogs the leaf’s travels through settings both natural (“over freezing lake waters”) and built (blown about by a freight train), it’s odd that there are so few autumnal references. Some of the leaf’s adventures, such as wafting through a vividly crimson maple tree or glimpsing geese migrating, are topically seasonal, but others, like a visit to a calf or a momma fox, don’t feel as germane. As the oak leaf floats lower over the city, it’s caught and pressed in a book by a white girl, a pleasant conclusion that gives the leaf’s journey a feeling of completion, though the ending is hampered slightly by the child’s somewhat unfinished-looking face—the illustrator is clearly more adept at capturing sweeping natural scenes than portraits. Written with a quiet poeticism, concise lines such as “Up through the mist, away from the earth, up” establish a pensive tone that neatly matches the quiet tale, though the text isn’t exactly bursting with personality either.

It’s pretty to look at, but it’s too generic to be an essential addition to an autumnal-themed book collection. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944903-73-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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