YAY FOR BIG BROTHERS!

An animal book focusing on big brothers offers reflection questions for older siblings to ponder.

A human big brother and his younger sibling, both presenting White, leaf through a book (readers will note it is the book they are holding) to learn about big brothers of other species. Several animals, including naked mole rats, hoary marmots, and beavers, are presented in successive double-page spreads. One to three sentences of information appear on verso, with one question for readers on recto. Some of the questions are open-ended, asking kids to consider how big brothers help younger siblings stay safe. Other queries are straightforward, asking about eating preferences and favorite games after sharing facts about the crow and kangaroo, respectively. While the title speaks to brothers, presumably older siblings of any gender would revel in answering. Illustrations present each animal family like paper dolls. The vibrantly colored animals have slightly anthropomorphic eyes and lie flat on the landscape of their natural environment. While this style doesn’t necessarily command attention, it presents images cleanly. The predictable rhythm and simple visuals are soothing and allow for focus on the discussion questions posed in each spread. Racial diversity is present in an ensemble spread of human sibling pairs. However, each one of these shares exact skin tone and hair texture between the two, homogenizing their seen identities.

Serviceable. (glossary, charts, facts) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64351-822-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A delightful story of love and hope.

OUR SUBWAY BABY

Families are formed everywhere—including large metropolitan mass-transit systems!

Baby Kevin, initially known as “Danny ACE Doe,” was found in the New York City’s 14th Street subway station, which serves the A-C-E lines, by one of his future fathers, Danny. Kevin’s other father, Pete (author Mercurio), serves as the narrator, explaining how the two men came to add the newborn to their family. Readers are given an abridged version of the story from Danny and Pete’s point of view as they work to formally adopt Kevin and bring him home in time for Christmas. The story excels at highlighting the determination of loving fathers while still including realistic moments of hesitation, doubt, and fear that occur for new and soon-to-be parents. The language is mindful of its audience (for example using “piggy banks” instead of “bank accounts” to discuss finances) while never patronizing young readers. Espinosa’s posterlike artwork—which presents the cleanest New York readers are ever likely to see—extends the text and makes use of unexpected angles to heighten emotional scenes and moments of urgency. The diversity of skin tones, ages, and faces (Danny and Pete both present white, and Kevin has light brown skin) befits the Big Apple. Family snapshots and a closing author’s note emphasize that the most important thing in any family is love. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 43% of actual size.)

A delightful story of love and hope. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42754-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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