A light treatment of a familiar tale.

READ REVIEW

NEVER SATISFIED

THE STORY OF THE STONECUTTER

The traditional Japanese folktale about a stonecutter who seeks ever greater prominence and power is retold in a modern, flippant version.

Stanley the frog works hard as a stonecutter. Though good at his job, he acknowledges the difficulties of his vocation. One day, on his way home from the quarry, Stanley observes a rabbit in a business suit “just sipping tea” and wishes he could be doing the same. Magically transformed with suit and tie, Stanley finds himself in the tea shop and declares, “Oh yeah! Now, this is more like it!” Soon a “commotion” around the king and his procession outside the tea shop prompts a new wish from Stanley: to be the king. Now the monarch, he proclaims “This rules!…I could get used to this kind of life!” As the sun beats down on Stanley, he grows tired of being the king and decides that being the sun would be better. Each new wish produces a limited amount of happiness or prestige with subsequent wishes to become a black cloud, a gusty wind, and finally the great stone. But Stanley’s satisfied only briefly, as the great stone must now contend with a new young stonecutter. Simple, bold, large cut-paper illustrations add to the absurdity, but overall this production with its implicit conclusion pales artistically when compared to Gerald McDermott’s stylized papercuts and Demi’s elegant paintings in their 1975 and 1995 versions, respectively.

A light treatment of a familiar tale. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-54846-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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The creators’ matter-of-fact embrace of inclusion is the highlight of an otherwise uneven poetry collection.

I'M THE BIG ONE NOW!

POEMS ABOUT GROWING UP

Award-winning poet Singer explores the stumbles and triumphs that go hand in hand as preschoolers become big kids.

From a three-part poem that appears in three different sections to two poems for two voices, these 19 poems encapsulate the myriad experiences of a diverse cast of grade schoolers. Just as the featured accomplishments span a wide range of “firsts,” so do Singer’s observations span a variety of poetic forms and rhyming schemes. Free verse intermingles with snappy quatrains, and introspection mingles with shouts of joy. “We figure it out! / We let out a hoot. / We find in the doghouse / a big bag of loot!” at a “First Big-Kid Party.” However, the quality of these snapshots does not reflect the poet's previous noteworthy efforts. “Not big enough / to drive a car / (or my bike real far), / to grow a beard / (plus I’d look weird), / to stay up late / (like way past eight), / to own a phone… / But plenty big / to take a bus / without a fuss / and go to school / ALONE!” just doesn’t have her usual zing. Christy’s watercolor images capture gap-toothed grins and snaggle-brow frowns with equal aplomb. A hijab-wearing mother in a theater is pictured next to a ballpark scene featuring a baseball cap–wearing young lady.

The creators’ matter-of-fact embrace of inclusion is the highlight of an otherwise uneven poetry collection. (Picture book/poetry. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-169-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.”

MY AMERICA

Whose America? The title pages are telling. As is the cover art.

In this read-aloud, the cover image of a sea of smiling faces in many skin hues suggests plurality (we/our) rather than the singular possessive “my.” Within, colorful spreads evoking early childhood drawings and self-portraits accompany text that poses as first-person narratives, as though real children were rendering their individual experiences. One-dimensional depictions of motives and methods of immigration to “America” result in dichotomies—here/there, then/now—that oversimplify differences and perpetuate stereotypes: Tae speaks of eating rice and kimchee in South Korea versus pizza in New York; Samaira from India informs readers: “I wear a bindi on my forehead.” And does a white child (Anna) asserting “All my family lives here….We have been here a long time” belong in this story centering children who have recently “come to live in America”? Notable absences of Native American and African American descendants—whose families have been here even longer than Swedish American Anna’s—underscore a thematic inconsistency, raising the question as to whose America this picture book, in fact, showcases. These simplistic, reductive representations undo otherwise bold attempts to promote empathy and inclusion. The well-known excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that acts as inscription on the Statue of Liberty closes the text.

Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.” (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9012-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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