Sweet.

READ REVIEW

SEED BY SEED

THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF JOHN "APPLESEED" CHAPMAN

A simple introduction to an American legend turns up inspiration for making the world a better place.

Frontier nurseryman John Chapman, born in Massachusetts just before the Revolutionary War, had traveled thousands of miles by his death and covered the Ohio River Valley with apple-tree nurseries, showing pioneer families how to start the orchards that would strengthen their attachment to the land. He had already become the legendary “Johnny Appleseed,” known for singular habits of dress, kindness to animals, friendship with pioneer and original settlers and a love of books. Saintly stories (“The Native Americans respected him for his spiritual bond with his surroundings, his kinship with all that grew and lived”) about Chapman inform this account. Codell says that Johnny Appleseed “left five [footsteps] for us to fill: Use what you have. Share what you have. Respect nature. Try to make peace where there is war. You can reach your destination by taking small steps.” Perkins’ watercolor, gouache and collage illustration is lively and disarming; a stitched sampler across one full opening offers rolling hills with apple trees in both blossom and fruit, Johnny Appleseed in the distance. Sources and acknowledgments appear on the title-page verso, while a final page offers suggestions for celebrating Johnny Appleseed’s September 26 birthday, including a simple apple pie recipe and the graceful Swedenborgian hymn many children will know as "the Johnny Appleseed song."

Sweet. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-145515-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text.

IF DOMINICAN WERE A COLOR

This nostalgic picture book celebrates the author’s Dominican heritage.

This poetic picture book sets out to dispel stereotypes and racism around skin color in the Dominican Republic, but it doesn’t quite succeed. The combination of Recio’s extended poem and McCarthy’s richly hued landscapes captures the inherent musicality and vibrancy of the Dominican countryside, coasts, and people. However, the text is sometimes hit or miss, especially when forcing a rhyme: “The shade of cinnamon in your cocoa, / drums beating so fast, they drive you loco,” feels forced. The Afro-Dominican author attempts to extol the different races found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, elevating the country’s Black roots: “It’d be the curls and kinks / that blend my hair, / the color of charcoal / mixed with the sun’s glare.” In her striving to reclaim colorist language, Recio doesn’t quite succeed, and her use of terms such as “yellow tint” and “the Haitian black / on my Dominican back” feels at odds with the powerful message she’s trying to convey while inadvertently recalling the racial caste system put in place by Spanish colonialists. McCarthy’s stunning art interprets the text with texture and light, her illustrations portraying the diversity and beauty of the Dominican people. The lush foliage, the impossibly blue skies, and the otherworldly pinks and oranges spring off the page with joy and verve. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.1% of actual size.)

Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6179-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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