A well-written, beautifully illustrated strategy for lifting up others in the face of bullying.

THE BRAVEST HEARTS

EMPOWERING OUR FRIENDS

A group of classmates supports a friend dealing with a bully in this companion children’s book to Sbarboro and Leach’s previous title, The Truest Heart (2018).

In this illustrated tale, a teacher named Miss Work hands out papers with drawings of hearts and announces a class assignment: “I want you to write a strength in this heart that you’ve seen in someone else.” The students—a diverse group representing multiple ethnicities—consider the topic. The assignment helps Jericka and Ze, two brown-skinned classmates, think about how much they appreciate their friendship since the former stopped being mean. Although the assignment resonates, it doesn’t give the students a strategy for responding when Kaisley bullies Jericka. Surprisingly, a math lesson provides the answer they need: It doesn’t take much to tip a scale. When Kaisley next bullies Jericka, some classmates interrupt with warm words about the latter’s strengths until their kindness surrounds her like a shield. That compassion allows Jericka to see that Kaisley may be a kindred spirit who just needs some encouraging words herself. Sbarboro’s deft depictions of Miss Work’s lessons and the students’ responses to them provide concrete, constructive ideas for creating positive friendships. The way the two classroom subjects work together to bring the lesson home shows the author’s keen insight into school dynamics. But because so many students share the spotlight, young readers may have trouble identifying the main character, particularly if they haven’t read the first book. Leach’s cartoon images, particularly her depiction of Kaisley, are incredibly effective. At the beginning, Kaisley is outlined like a child but filled with gray. It’s only when Jericka begins to see her as a person and offers her words of kindness that Kaisley’s features are defined. The sympathetic words, portrayed as swirls of color, perfectly capture the emotion of what it feels like to receive praise.

A well-written, beautifully illustrated strategy for lifting up others in the face of bullying.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9992420-4-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Montgomery Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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I AM NOT GOING TO GET UP TODAY!

After an eight-year interval, a Beginner Book by this well-loved originator of the series is welcome; and since Seuss hasn't chosen to illustrate it himself, we are lucky to have Stevenson as alternate. In the familiar Seuss pattern of a simple premise exaggerated to comic effect, a boy declares, "My bed is warm. My pillow's deep. Today's the day I'm going to sleep"—regardless of his mother, various arguments, successive waves of reinforcements, including the Marines, and a TV crew filming the momentous event. Actually, the development of the idea is a little tame compared with Seuss' other extravaganzas (and such determined all-day slumber is more the province of teen-agers and the good doctor's contemporaries than of readers at this level); but the book is delightfully enlivened by Stevenson's vigorous illustrations, which considerably augment the text by showing the full extent of the consternation caused by the hero's stubborness. Though there is plenty of the repetition required by learning readers, there are also some unusual words like Memphis, suggesting that this is not the easiest easy reader; but it has enough appeal to keep beginners entertained.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1987

ISBN: 0394892178

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987

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