Utterly indispensable.

Explore how intricate storytelling and painted books arose in Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Europeans.

Told from the perspective of a child speaking to a brother, this trip through Mesoamerican bookmaking begins with a summoning: “Our world, my brother, is an amoxtlalpan”—a “land of books.” There are nods to other Mesoamerican civilizations—the Chontaltin, the Mixtecah—before the narrator proclaims, “And we, the mighty Mexihcah who dwell in the valley of the volcanoes, make books too.” From there, readers follow along through a breakdown of how the Mexihcah (referred to as Aztecs in English) created books. The child explains how their parents, tlahcuilohqueh (“painters of words”), work in the amoxcalli (“house of books”). Tonatiuh deftly outlines the lengthy processes devoted to the creation of the multipaged, colorfully rendered amoxtin, from decorating book covers with feathers and precious stones to making paint out of insects. Tonatiuh probes deeper into Mexihcah culture as the narrator discusses education, literacy, and religion, describing how the four Tezcatlipocah, or gods, created the world and the god Blue Hummingbird sparked a great migration. Throughout each shift in focus, Tonatiuh’s respect and reverence for the subject shine through loud and clear as he shares knowledge of Mesoamerican books almost lost to the past (a detailed author's note states that, following the Spanish conquest, many of the books were destroyed). As always, the author/illustrator brilliantly conveys emotions and atmosphere with his colorful visuals—an inspired offspring of pre-Columbian art. A glossary defines the Nahuatl words used throughout. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Utterly indispensable. (bibliography, websites) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4942-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022


From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018


From the Cavemice series , Vol. 1

Warp back in time for a prehistoric spinoff adventure with Geronimo Stilton’s ancestor, Geronimo Stiltonoot, in Old Mouse City.

Readers will find Geronimo Stiltonoot a familiar character, outfitted differently from descendant Stilton yet still running a newspaper and having wild adventures. In this introduction to prehistoric mouse life, someone has stolen the most powerful and important artifact housed by the Old Mouse City Mouseum: the Stone of Fire. It’s up to Stiltonoot and his fellow sleuth and friend, Hercule Poirat, to uncover not only the theft, but a dangerous plot that jeopardizes all of Old Mouse City. As stand-ins for the rest of the Stilton cast, Stiltonoot has in common with Stilton a cousin named Trap, a sister named Thea and a nephew named Benjamin. The slapstick comedy and design, busy with type changes and color, will be familiar for Stilton readers. The world is fictionalized for comedic effect, featuring funny uses for dinosaurs and cheeky references to how far back in time they are, with only the occasional sidebar that presents facts. The story takes a bit long to get started, spending a lot of time reiterating the worldbuilding information laid out before the first chapter. But once it does start, it is an adventure Stilton readers will enjoy. Geronimo Stiltonoot has the right combination of familiarity and newness to satisfy Stilton fans. (Fiction. 6-10)


Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-44774-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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