Lacking cohesiveness, this will likely lead the curious reader to other books.

BEST AFRICAN AMERICAN FICTION: 2009

The expansive criteria in terms of authors, genres and publication dates (2006–09) makes for a treasure trove of discovery in this volume, though it doesn’t hold together as well as so many other best-of anthologies.

Readers across racial lines will find reason for delight in this debut of what is intended as an annual series, which mixes short stories with novel selections and young-adult fiction, and writers as acclaimed as Junot Díaz (typically categorized as Dominican-American) and as little known as L.F. Haines (whose selection from the young-adult work Up For It: A Tale of the Underground Respiration does not credit a publisher). A taste of Díaz’s virtuosic, award-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will likely leave readers hungry for the whole novel, while the Haines selection—with its gang warfare, drug house, references to Coltrane and Mingus and footnotes longer than David Foster Wallace’s—must qualify as young-adult fiction mainly on the basis of its 15-year-old protagonist. Too many of the novel selections which dominate these pages start in the middle of things, with the reader lacking context of character. A half-dozen self-contained stories open the volume, with settings that range from the Caribbean (“The Saving Work” by Tiphanie Yanique) to Nigeria (“Cell One” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), and approaches from the metafictional (“Orb Weaver” by Emily Raboteau) to the first-person confessional (“This Kind of Red” by Helen Elaine Lee). A short introduction by Early provides perspective on African-American fiction, and another by guest editor Harris focuses on the selections.

Lacking cohesiveness, this will likely lead the curious reader to other books.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80689-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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THE COLORS OF US

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS EXPLORES THE SENSES

The way-off-road vehicle (The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field, 1997, etc.) tours the ears, eyes, nose, and skin when the assistant principal, Mr. Wilde, accidentally shrinks the school bus and the children on board, commandeering it to deliver a message to Ms. Frizzle. The vehicle plunges into the eye of a police officer, where the students explore the pupil, the cornea, the retina, and the optic nerve leading to the brain. Then it’s on to other senses, via the ear of a small child, the nose of a dog, and the tongue of the Friz herself. Sidebars and captions add to the blizzard of information here; with a combination of plot, details, and jokes, the trip is anything but dull. The facts will certainly entice readers to learn more about the ways living creatures perceive the world. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-44697-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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