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An easy ecological primer for young readers couched in a fanciful adventure tale.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In this illustrated children’s book, a girl’s fantastic outing with Mother Earth teaches her important lessons about ecology and humans’ stewardship of nature.

Young Vana loves to visit her grandmother’s farm, where she can run free in the countryside, eat delicious fresh food, and play with the chickens, cows, and her grandma’s lively beagle, Elvin. Each time she visits, her grandparent gives her fresh-baked pies, homemade jam, and a new journal in which to draw and write. During one of the youngster’s visits, she falls asleep under an apple tree, and she’s awakened by a beautiful woman who introduces herself as Gaia (aka Mother Earth). Gaia takes Vana on a magical tour of her earthly domain, gently explaining the purposes of the trees, bees, birds, and even the rain, which Vana “hates” for dampening her play until she learns how important it is for sustaining life. Through it all, Gaia expresses her love for her creations as well as her disappointment that she “cannot change the bad habits of animals—or especially humans.” She wishes that people “could be more humble and less selfish in [their] relationship with me and all of my other children,” and she charges Vana to use her special talents for drawing and writing to share what she’s learned. Petrović’s narrative is both ambitious and concise in its attempt to illustrate Gaia’s ultimate lesson that “We are all one.” The prose is simple and understandable but never condescends to its young audience. She manages to convey Vana’s sense of wonder while also retaining a child’s perspective, as when Vana unthinkingly calls a mole “ugly” only to regret her rudeness as she discovers the unique purposes of each element of nature. Anthropomorphism abounds, and sexism and ageism make a jarring appearance when Gaia tells Vana that a giant redwood “won’t admit exactly how old she is—she is after all a lady.” Overall, though, the narrative provides a gentle explanation of the human impact on nature, from pesticides to global warming.

An easy ecological primer for young readers couched in a fanciful adventure tale.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 89

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2022


From the How To Catch… series

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound.

The titular cookie runs off the page at a bookstore storytime, pursued by young listeners and literary characters.

Following on 13 previous How To Catch… escapades, Wallace supplies sometimes-tortured doggerel and Elkerton, a set of helter-skelter cartoon scenes. Here the insouciant narrator scampers through aisles, avoiding a series of elaborate snares set by the racially diverse young storytime audience with help from some classic figures: “Alice and her mad-hat friends, / as a gift for my unbirthday, / helped guide me through the walls of shelves— / now I’m bound to find my way.” The literary helpers don’t look like their conventional or Disney counterparts in the illustrations, but all are clearly identified by at least a broad hint or visual cue, like the unnamed “wizard” who swoops in on a broom to knock over a tower labeled “Frogwarts.” Along with playing a bit fast and loose with details (“Perhaps the boy with the magic beans / saved me with his cow…”) the author discards his original’s lip-smacking climax to have the errant snack circling back at last to his book for a comfier sort of happily-ever-after.

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0935-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


From the J.D. the Kid Barber series , Vol. 2

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D.

Breakout kid barber J.D. embraces a summer of opportunity.

Readers met J.D. Jones just as he took his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, by storm, winning himself community acclaim and a chair at the revered Hart and Sons barbershop in series opener J.D. and the Great Barber Battle(2021). What’s next for the haircut prodigy? School’s just getting out, and there’s so much life happening outside—if only one can escape home learning with the grandparents. J.D.’s sister, Vanessa, brings along multitalented mutual friend Jessyka to share an ambitious challenge: “Let’s start a YouTube channel!” Can they get millions of views and wow the whole world? They are already amazing at haircuts and hairstyles—all they need is to learn how to make a great YouTube video. The story models strategies for scripting short videos reflecting the templates of viral YouTube hair tutorials, inviting readers to not only see the journey of the characters, but maybe also practice these skills at home. This book is bound to educate all about some of the most storied and cherished traditions within the Black community. Bringing in Vanessa is a great touch to extend the series across gender, and hopefully she’ll get a chance to lead her own adventures. This book blends skill-building, entrepreneurship, and strong family values to give young Black children visions of what’s possible when they follow their passions and embrace their community.

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11155-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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