ORANGES ON GOLDEN MOUNTAIN

This touching and pretty picture book tells the story of Jo Lee, a young boy in 19th-century China who is sent to join his uncle on Golden Mountain (the name Chinese immigrants have given to California) when a drought has brought hardship to his village. Jo Lee is miserably seasick and homesick on the long boat trip and desperately misses his mother and sister. At first overwhelmed by the strangeness of America, eventually he adjusts to the routine of the fishing village in which Fourth Uncle lives, fishing in the mornings and stomping on the shrimp in wooden shoes until they pop out of their shells in the afternoons. Even though he is so far away from his family, Jo Lee’s Hun, his dream spirit, keeps him connected to them by leaving his body every so often and traveling to China to visit and even to act as a beneficent spirit. An afterw0rd gives historical background about Chinese immigration to the West Coast and explains the traditional Chinese belief that each person has five spirits, including the Hun, which gives people courage and the ability to dream. When a person is awake, the Hun shines out of one’s eyes, but during sleep, the Hun can wander freely. The colorful and boldly graphic illustrations are formed with cut paper and watercolors. The design of the book is particularly attractive, with most pages surrounded by a duo-colored frame. The Hun is depicted by a ghostlike, yet friendly image, and the illustration of the Dragon King, sure to appeal to children, is surrounded by dramatic swirls of color. While this is a fairly rosy picture of the experience of Chinese immigration to California in the 19th century, glossing over the hardships and prejudice, the story serves as a good introduction and is also a paean to the unbreakable bonds of mother and child. Excellent for the classroom and a useful addition to any library. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46453-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.

SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ

From the Questioneers series

Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact.

After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia’s nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that “being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you’re just in Grade Two.” Sofia’s courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty’s previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia’s leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts’ signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae.

Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3704-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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