A disappointing example of exoticization.

WHEN MY DAD WENT TO THE JUNGLE

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 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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