ARMANDO AND THE BLUE TARP SCHOOL

This affecting tale—of a plein-air schoolroom in a deeply impoverished neighborhood populated by pepenadores (trash pickers)—springs from the real deal. Fine and Josephson have taken the story of David Lynch, who first went to Mexico in 1980 to teach children living in the Tijuana city dump, and fashioned it into a picture book. Fictional, yes, but only marginally so. Their story pivots around Armando, who scours the dump with his father all day long for anything of worth, and his thirst to join the classroom: a blue tarp on the bare ground. Though Armando’s income is vital to the family, his parents come to understand that only an education will allow him to eclipse pepenadore life. The simplicity of the story is what lets it run deep, its bite of realism; no sermons are being delivered here, just a door thrown open to life under reduced circumstances (though Sosa’s artwork, with its look of leaded glass, conveys a benevolent quality to the proceedings). Without patronizing, Señor David defines the essence of humanitarianism, while the pepenadores, ever searching for beauty in the beast, find gold—and prize it. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-58430-278-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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JOE LOUIS, MY CHAMPION

One of the watershed moments in African-American history—the defeat of James Braddock at the hands of Joe Louis—is here given an earnest picture-book treatment. Despite his lack of athletic ability, Sammy wants desperately to be a great boxer, like his hero, getting boxing lessons from his friend Ernie in exchange for help with schoolwork. However hard he tries, though, Sammy just can’t box, and his father comforts him, reminding him that he doesn’t need to box: Joe Louis has shown him that he “can be the champion at anything [he] want[s].” The high point of this offering is the big fight itself, everyone crowded around the radio in Mister Jake’s general store, the imagined fight scenes played out in soft-edged sepia frames. The main story, however, is so bent on providing Sammy and the reader with object lessons that all subtlety is lost, as Mister Jake, Sammy’s father, and even Ernie hammer home the message. Both text and oil-on-canvas-paper illustrations go for the obvious angle, making the effort as a whole worthy, but just a little too heavy-handed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58430-161-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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