Welcome insights from a celebrated author.

Translated questions from kids, answered by renowned Italian children’s writer Rodari in his 1950s newspaper columns.

Rodari, who grew up during Mussolini’s reign, briefly joined the Fascists to obtain work but actively resisted the regime. His ethos shines through in this work; respect for his child audience mingles with his pro-labor, anti-authoritarian outlook. He often appends mini-parables and rhyming ditties to his answers. Throughout, Rodari excoriates proverbs for their fusty, contradictory didacticism. Responding to “Why do we have to study?” he notes that learning helps students make the world “a better and more beautiful place”—yet he urges children to seek lessons beyond books, in firsthand experiences. His brilliant riposte to why gold is so precious locates its answer in the human labor expended to extract it. He then skewers the proverb “Silence is golden,” avowing that if “it’s the right time to express your point of view, then silence isn’t even worth as much as…sawdust.” Rodari provides pithy answers to basic queries about rainbows, light bulbs, and auto engines. There are koanlike nuggets for some “whys,” from “Why are kings kings?” (“because they say so”) to “Why does it rain? (“because of the sun”) to “Why do we all wish for things?” (“wishing…amounts to living”). His riff on the secret to lifelong happiness is lovely and affirmative: “You learn it from life.” Depicting diverse children and adults, Yoon’s whimsical illustrations further enliven the text.

Welcome insights from a celebrated author. (introduction from Shugaar, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2024

ISBN: 9781592703647

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


A substantive and affirming addition to any collection.

An impressive array of names, events, and concepts from Black history are introduced in this alphabet book for early-elementary readers.

From A for anthem (“a banner of song / that wraps us in hope, lets us know we belong”) to Z for zenith (“the top of that mountain King said we would reach”), this picture book is a journey through episodes, ideas, and personalities that represent a wide range of Black experiences. Some spreads celebrate readers themselves, like B for beautiful (“I’m talking to you!”); others celebrate accomplishments, such as E for explore (Matthew Henson, Mae Jemison), or experiences, like G for the Great Migration. The rhyming verses are light on the tongue, making the reading smooth and soothing. The brightly colored, folk art–style illustrations offer vibrant scenes of historical and contemporary Black life, with common people and famous people represented in turn. Whether reading straight through and poring over each page or flipping about to look at the refreshing scenes full of brown and black faces, readers will feel pride and admiration for the resilience and achievements of Black people and a call to participate in the “unfinished…American tale.” Endnotes clarify terms and figures, and a resource list includes child-friendly books, websites, museums, and poems.

A substantive and affirming addition to any collection. (Informational picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0749-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020



Preposterous situations and farcical sound-alike sentences will elicit groans and giggles.

Homophones in versatile parallel sentences create absurd scenarios.

The pattern is simple but endlessly funny: Two sentences, each illustrated, sound the same but are differentiated by their use of homophones. On the verso of the opening spread a cartoon restaurant scene shows a diner lifting a plate of spaghetti and meatballs to a waiter who removes a dark hair from the plate of noodles: “The hair came forth.” (Both figures have brown skin.) Opposite, the scene shows a race with a tortoise at the finish line while a hare trails the tortoise, a snake, and a snail: “The hare came fourth.” The humorous line drawings feature an array of humans, animals, and monsters and provide support and context to the sentences, however bizarre they may seem. New vocabulary is constantly introduced, as is the idea that spelling and punctuation can alter meaning. Some pairings get quite sophisticated; others are rather forced. “The barred man looted the establishment. / The bard man luted the establishment” stretches the concept, paralleling barred with bard as adjectives and looted with luted as verbs. The former is an orange-jumpsuited White prisoner in a cell; the other, a brown-skinned musician strumming a lute for a racially diverse group of dancers. Poetic license may allow for luted, though the word lute is glaringly missing from the detailed glossary.

Preposterous situations and farcical sound-alike sentences will elicit groans and giggles. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72820-659-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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