People will be stunned by this book even if they’re too astonished to explain why.

IN THE JERUSALEM FOREST

Readers will be happily confused by this picture book.

Almost every page of the story—based on a piece by Israeli national poet Hayim Nahman Bialik—is gently disorienting. The narrator is a young girl walking through the woods with her mother, and as they look at the reflections in the water, she says, “The forest is upside-down,” and “There in the water: the sky!” Kelner takes this as a challenge. In her paintings, the sky is often the same color as the water or the ground, and the characters’ clothing matches the nature around them. The most challenging section is when the girl says, “Ima and I see our reflections in the pond. We look the same, like two drops of rain.” (“Ima” is the Hebrew word for “Mom.”) This isn’t quite true. The mother is tall, freckled, and redheaded. The daughter is more compact, and her skin is the pale brown of coffee ice cream. But the paintings include small details that mirror each other so that the characters really do start to look alike. Busheri adds off rhymes to the text at unexpected moments (“same” and “rain,” “come” and “sun”), which is both lovely and a bit startling. The imagery, both in the words and the pictures, is so beautiful that readers may be heartbroken when a ripple in the water takes the reflections away.

People will be stunned by this book even if they’re too astonished to explain why. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-3472-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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