SCORE ONE FOR THE SLOTHS

An amusing, if decidedly sleepy, tale of sloths and the very relaxing atmosphere of their school—an institution thrown in jeopardy by a bureaucrat of conventional stripe—from the hand-and-glove team behind Tacky the Penguin and Wodney Wat. Sleepy Valley Sloth School lives up to its name: nobody here but drowsy sloths. They snooze through their lessons—so do their teachers—through their recess, through their study hall. They sleep “until six o’clock when the custodian swept them out, and they rolled home.” It was one contented educational establishment. One day a disruptive influence makes the scene: a young fireplug of a sloth named Sparky, who tries to light some fire under her classmates: “ ‘Let’s read a story! Hey, we could use a little music! Want to build a castle? Anyone for math? How about some poetry?’ ” No takers. “ ‘What a bunch of bores,’ ” she sighs. Then a real boar pushes through the door, an operative from the Society for Organizing Sameness, come to close the school for failing in all subjects. Sparky saves the school by dazzling the organization man with feats of reading, music, math, and poetry. Who says sloths are underachievers? They’re being sloths, and just how many creatures have had their name elevated to a common adjective? Only Munsinger could so perfectly catch them in all their languid glory, from the opening page when they are quite literally “just hanging around” as loose-limbed and zonked-out as anything ever seen, to as nearly awake as a sloth can get while piled up in a heap trying to pay attention. And the belly laughs induced by Lester’s words will keep everyone awake. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-10857-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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