Ultimately, Corr delivers a handsomely packaged story that begs the questions, from where did it arise, and whom is it for?...

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THE GREAT RACE

THE STORY OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC

In this retelling of Chinese lunar calendar lore, the animals race to claim a spot in the zodiac.

To better measure time, the Jade Emperor announces a race in which the first 12 animals to finish “will each have a year named after them.” Antics ensue as the animals use their wits, kindness, and determination to compete. The illustrations, done in acrylic or gouache with solid strokes of color and layered patterns, are attractive, and there is a sophistication to how the primary palette colors are combined. But while the story is culturally Chinese, the artwork seems chiefly inspired by Oaxacan folk art. Some Asian influences can be seen—the compositions reference 16th-century illustrated manuscripts from the Indian Mughal period, and the flat rendering of perspective recalls Persian miniature painting. Despite the fact that these share Asian roots, there seems to be little in Chinese style or reference in the art. Whether that is needed for a Chinese folk story with folk art is debatable. However, the text at times is a bit rote and lacks the luster a strong emphasis on each animal’s traditional zodiac personality traits could have given.

Ultimately, Corr delivers a handsomely packaged story that begs the questions, from where did it arise, and whom is it for? (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78603-065-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A feast…at least for the eyes, and much better for the teeth.

BAKE A RAINBOW CAKE!

It’s all about the colors in this board-book version of the virally popular “rainbow explosion” cake.

The cake, which stars in many online videos and slide shows, is actually all about the sprinkles, evoked here with a combination of multihued spinners or sliders and hundreds of tiny holes punched into the sturdy cover and stock. Kassem, a New York City specialist baker, recaps its creation…without specific ingredients but step by step in the simplest language: “Pour it! / Mix it! // Color it!” The images are abstract enough that the result never really looks like food, but young digerati are unlikely to care as they’re directed to choose colors for each of the six layers, pull a tab to watch them rise in the oven, then see all but the top layer hollowed out before being stacked in rainbow order (sans indigo) and finally filled with a column of sprinkles that will pour out in a climactic rush (“Surprise!”) when the finished cake, its outside likewise sprinkle encrusted, is sliced. Chavarri’s simple illustrations flash with oversaturated hues, each succeeding double-page spread being somehow brighter than the last one, until the final uncomplicated pop-up unfolds in a grand shower of confetti and sprinkles. Budding chefs may find the recipe-based approach in Lotta Niemenen’s Cook in a Book series more to their taste, but for sheer energy and dazzle, this is hard to beat.

A feast…at least for the eyes, and much better for the teeth. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3746-6

Page Count: 10

Publisher: abramsappleseed

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A handsome, imaginative volume for Christmas bookshelves.

THE GIFTS OF THE ANIMALS

A poetic imagining of gifts from the Nativity animals to the newborn baby Jesus.

Gerber’s lilting rhymes reinterpret biblical text from the book of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 1-16 in the King James Version (reproduced in the back of the book). The frontmatter notes that they draw inspiration from “a 12th century Latin song, which became known in England as ‘The Animal Carol’ ”; within, the author imagines what the Nativity animals might have done to “prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.” She writes that an ox “drops straw into a manger bed.” Then “sheep tear loose bits of their wool / to make the bed feel soft and full.” Birds on the stable’s roof give feathers, which mice carry to the manger. A cow finds a blanket and adds it to the bed, too. Mary and Joseph appear with the baby, and the realistic-style illustrations depict the trio as olive-skinned with dark hair, and the shepherds have a similar appearance. The first angel to appear seems white, but the heavenly host singing in exaltation includes at least three angels of color (albeit ethereally washed-out). The book proper closes with shepherds and animals gathered around the Holy Family as they “all sing: ‘Glory to our newborn King!’ ” Shimokawara glories in textures, making the whorls in the animals’ fur and the folds in human characters’ robes seem touchable.

A handsome, imaginative volume for Christmas bookshelves. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64170-159-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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