THE DUST BOWL

Booth (Doctor Knickerbocker and Other Rhymes, 1993, etc.) uses a present-day drought on a Canadian farm as a prompt for a grandfather's gritty reminiscence of the hardscrabble times during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Readers follow along a slow-moving narrative, hearing of dust and dirt everywhere, learning of towels stuffed in the cracks of doors, of children walking to school backwards to keep the wind from stinging their faces, and of clearing the dust from the nostrils of cows. The underlying theme suggests the fortitude and tenacity of overcoming hardship; the story itself comes across as a bit of a sleepy memoir, without a strong thread to connect it to the contemporary farm. The grandfather was a young married man during the ``Big Dry,'' so his perspective naturally remains an adult one. Laced with historical facts that may work best in a social-studies curriculum, the telling lacks emotion, and these male members of three generations don't have any personalities to draw readers in. The grainy, nostalgic illustrations in muted earth tones capture the energy of dust storms: A cloud of hot, sucking wind frightens the horse, knits the brow of the grandmother, and creases the faces of children walking against the wind. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55074-295-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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