A solid civics and civil-liberties primer.

Based on the Canadian animated video series of the same name, this collection of six stories about a diverse democratic city and its governing body frames some of the very important conversations that adults need to have with children about rights and freedoms and accepting difference.

Each story begins with a problem facing the councilors or the citizens, which is then followed by a vote on some law—but the real lesson comes when the execution of the laws brings unintended and “unfair” consequences. Mayor Moe observes the squabbling, untidy city council and decides to impose a uniform, for instance. This excludes Councillors Twist and Cuddly, who are required by their religions to wear head coverings, so the city council re-examines its law. Councillor Bug often breaks the fourth wall to point out when a law or consequence of a law is unfair. It’s a kid-friendly device, as is the book’s built-in interactive element. Each story ends with an extended discussion, followed by questions. These questions (What was the purpose of the law? Was it achieved? Were there any problems that arose from it?) will prompt conversations and ensure clarity on the messages received from each tale. Further reinforcement comes in a wrap-up note at the end. Patel’s comical illustrations, also based on the animated series, are consistently entertaining; the vibrant and charismatic creatures offer a rainbow of fur colors and body types and a broad range of expressions.

A solid civics and civil-liberties primer. (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77138-208-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016


Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


This unusual book offers a surprising amount of information, organized and presented in an appealing way for...

Why do people choose to live where they do in our world?

Vermond’s introduction to that big question points out that humans adapt: They use their big brains and work together to make places livable. A comfortable climate, readily available food and water, power for heat, light, transportation and communication, people who speak the same language, nearby families and plentiful jobs are just some of the things people are looking for. From the “Planet Perfect” to making your hometown one of “The Happiest Places on Earth,” the author considers human needs, briefly surveys the development of cities, explains what urban planners do, considers the reasons for living in a dangerous place as well as the reasons for moving, and touches on the effects of climate change and the possibility of living elsewhere in the universe. Each spread covers a separate topic. The extensive, conversational text is often set in columns and broken down into short segments, each with a heading, moving along quickly. A lively design and humorous illustrations add appeal. Unfortunately, there are no sources or suggestions for further reading.

This unusual book offers a surprising amount of information, organized and presented in an appealing way for upper-elementary students. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77147-011-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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