This Norwegian import takes young readers seriously, respecting their innate sense of compassion and need to derive meaning...

WHY AM I HERE?

An introspective book that will provoke reflection, particularly in sensitive and observant readers of a philosophical nature.

A dark-haired, brown-eyed child with light brown skin, clad simply in a T-shirt and jeans, ponders deep existential questions, wondering what life would have been like in a variety of different settings. Soft and dreamy illustrations help cushion the harsh impact of the reality some must cope with as the narrator journeys past young people who are homeless, fleeing war, working as child laborers, and surviving natural disasters. Touches of the fanciful and lovely—a secret forest, friendship with a ring-tailed lemur, stargazing—remind readers that even in a world of tremendous hardship there are moments of wonder. This is a multilayered book; “here” refers both to the particular physical location where one finds oneself and to our very existence on this Earth. It can be used to prompt existential conversations (“Why am I me, and not someone else?”) or to discuss current events (imagining that “everything was destroyed and wiped away,” the child asks, “Where would I go then? / Would I come here? / In that case, it would be good if someone said that / I could stay here”).

This Norwegian import takes young readers seriously, respecting their innate sense of compassion and need to derive meaning from the seemingly inexplicable. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5477-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character.

LOLA LEVINE IS NOT MEAN!

From the Lola Levine series , Vol. 1

Brown introduces a smart, young protagonist with a multicultural background in this series opener for chapter-book readers.

Second-grader Lola Levine is half-Peruvian and half-Jewish; she is a skilled soccer player, a persuasive writer, and aspires to own a cat in the near future should her parents concede. During a friendly recess soccer match, Lola, playing goalie, defends an incoming ball by coming out of her box and accidentally fouls a classmate. And so Lola acquires the rhyming nickname Mean Lola Levine. Through Lola’s first-person narration, readers see clearly how her savvy and creativity come from her family: Dad, who paints, Mom, who writes, and a fireball younger brother. She also wears her bicultural identity easily. In her narration, her letters to her friends, and dialogue, Lola easily inserts such words as diario, tía, bubbe, and shalom. For dinner, the family eats matzo ball soup, Peruvian chicken, and flan. Interspersed throughout the story are references to all-star soccer athletes, from Brazilian master Pelé to Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, and David Beckham. Dominguez’s black-and-white illustrations are cheery and appealing, depicting a long-haired Caucasian father and dark-skinned, black-haired mother. Typefaces that emulate penmanship appropriately differ from character to character: Lola’s is small and clean, her mother’s is tall and slanted, while Juan’s, the injured classmate, is sloppy and lacks finesse.

Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-25836-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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