The story ends on a perfect note of triumph, but it might be a better book if it were a touch less perfect.

READ REVIEW

SPEAK UP, TOMMY!

 

There are no easy victories in life, but no one has told the author. Dogs talk all the time in children’s books, but they hardly ever speak a foreign language. Samson is a police dog who doesn’t obey. He was trained in Israel, where all the commands were given in Hebrew. In the United States, everyone talks to him in English—except for one boy named Tommy. “In Israel,” Greene writes, “his name was Tomer, which means ‘palm tree.’…Now it was easier to be Tommy.” Whenever he speaks up, the other students snicker and tell him he talks funny. You already know what will happen next: Samson will refuse to stop barking. Tommy will calm him down with a word or two of Hebrew. The other kids will stop laughing. The problem is that these things happen all at once. The instant the dog quiets down, a student is saying, “Maybe you could teach us Hebrew.” This story is, of course, a fable about being yourself, but it doesn’t need to move at the speed of a fable. Everything in the book is plausible—it’s based on a true story, according to the author's note—but at this pace it feels about as real as a talking dog.

The story ends on a perfect note of triumph, but it might be a better book if it were a touch less perfect. (English/Hebrew dog commands) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-7497-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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