Kenyan orphan Kitoo discovers ice hockey through his love of reading.

When the librarian at the orphanage offers Kitoo some old books that will be discarded, he is thrilled to own books. One of the books about sports shows people playing ice hockey. The librarian, Mrs. Kyatha, explains what ice is and tells him that people play roller hockey in a park in a nearby city. Kitoo is enthralled, but even with his active imagination and hopefulness, he is sure he will never get to see hockey in real life. But on his next trip to the city with the orphanage’s driver, he finds a way to go to the park and watch the hockey players, and on his way out, he finds discarded roller blades in the trash. He brings the skates home, gets help fixing them, and practices skating until he is skilled. His best friend, Nigosi, encourages him to hope that he may see ice one day, but Kitoo’s imagination won’t stretch that far. But with some help from mentors and his friend, he gets to visit the only ice rink in all of East Africa. This simple story of discovery, sport, and friendship is filled with likable characters and innocently joyful moments. Its basis in the real-life Hope Development Centre orphanage (founded by co-author Mutinda’s parents) makes its themes of hope, hard work, kindness, and triumph all the more memorable. Full- and half-page black-and-white illustrations bring the boys’ adventures to life.

Delightful. (Fiction. 5-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2361-7

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.


From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Boelts’ quiet tale celebrates the perseverance of a young girl as she attempts to achieve her goals


Soccer is a bittersweet mix of sorrow and joy for Sierra.

Sierra struggles with conflicting emotions about her new soccer team. Traveling out of the city, Sierra now plays on soccer fields unlike the one near the apartment where she lives with her aunt, which is exciting. However, being on this new team has some drawbacks. With most games on Saturdays—which is her aunt’s busiest day at the restaurant—Sierra is sad to be the only player without family members to cheer for her during games. Yet, with a little ingenuity, Sierra discovers a solution to her dilemma. Boelts focuses on the relationship between Sierra and her aunt, deftly portraying Sierra’s maturity and fortitude as she attempts to resolve the situation. Sierra, while dedicated to her sport, recognizes the importance and inspiring effect of her aunt’s support and encouragement. Castillo’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations of the city’s landscapes feature towering buildings in an austere setting. In contrast, drawings of Sierra’s home and her aunt’s workplace depict warm, cozy scenes. Scenes with the dark-skinned, crinkly-haired auntie and niece emphasize the close, nurturing relationship. Action-filled paintings of the soccer games capture the fast-paced excitement of the game.

Boelts’ quiet tale celebrates the perseverance of a young girl as she attempts to achieve her goals . (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4616-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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