A disappointing example of exoticization.

City kid Theo narrates their father’s trip to “the mother of all jungles”—as well as the young protagonist’s own silly attempts to pantomime the Indigenous ways of life relayed in their father’s tales.

For example: When Theo learns that “the people in the jungle” include tucus (a variety of large worms) in their diet, the curious child heads for the garden to “[dig] up some earthworms.” The text grows more serious when the storyteller’s father describes the jungle’s environmental plight: the dwindling of the harpy eagle and ranching-induced deforestation. Enchanted by stories of the jungle’s Native population and the spirits who live among them, Theo declares, “If I go to the jungle one day, I’ll tell the spirits that I love them and ask them to come over.” Meanwhile, illustrator Decis depicts Indigenous spirits as white, round-faced creatures with wings and two twigs coming out of their heads; it’s unclear whether this rendering has any resemblance to how Sápara people (identified by name only in the backmatter) view their own spirits. Sadly, Sápara people and their Amazonian home are flattened in this narrative despite the author’s gestures at self-reflection. In a book focusing on the struggles of a Native people, the acknowledgment page and author’s note spend more time applauding the Spanish researcher in charge of Gusti’s expedition into the Amazon for “her inexhaustible struggle to save the South American jungle.”

A disappointing example of exoticization. (publisher’s note, epilogue) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-670-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020



From the J.D. the Kid Barber series , Vol. 2

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D.

Breakout kid barber J.D. embraces a summer of opportunity.

Readers met J.D. Jones just as he took his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, by storm, winning himself community acclaim and a chair at the revered Hart and Sons barbershop in series opener J.D. and the Great Barber Battle(2021). What’s next for the haircut prodigy? School’s just getting out, and there’s so much life happening outside—if only one can escape home learning with the grandparents. J.D.’s sister, Vanessa, brings along multitalented mutual friend Jessyka to share an ambitious challenge: “Let’s start a YouTube channel!” Can they get millions of views and wow the whole world? They are already amazing at haircuts and hairstyles—all they need is to learn how to make a great YouTube video. The story models strategies for scripting short videos reflecting the templates of viral YouTube hair tutorials, inviting readers to not only see the journey of the characters, but maybe also practice these skills at home. This book is bound to educate all about some of the most storied and cherished traditions within the Black community. Bringing in Vanessa is a great touch to extend the series across gender, and hopefully she’ll get a chance to lead her own adventures. This book blends skill-building, entrepreneurship, and strong family values to give young Black children visions of what’s possible when they follow their passions and embrace their community.

A strong second outing for Dillard and J.D. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11155-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021



From the Rafi and Rosi series

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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