Lovely to gaze upon and offering characters with promise, but the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.


From the Tradewinds series

Nam presents a fleeting, exotic introduction to the invention of coinage.

Young Laos lives in Sardis in the ancient kingdom of Lydia (today’s western Turkey), nearby the river of gold: Pactolus. Laos comes from a family of traders and goldsmiths, the gold panned in plenty from the sands of the Pactolus River. Indeed, so bountiful is the Pactolus that the legend of King Midas was minted along its banks. As the city is a great marketplace, the people of Sardis understand the vexations of barter as a system of exchange. Laos is drawn by Sforza with pale skin, a shock of black hair, and glistening eyes, his elders bearded (some bald, others hatted, few women), with settings that capture the feeling of ancient wall murals. He relays that the merchants need to simplify their transactions: it needs to be something light that won’t rot. Maybe gold or silver? They send these ideas to the king for consideration. The king creates a coin stamped with the titular lion and declares it currency. That’s rather neat and tidy, a gold mine for “how”s and “why”s of the dismal science that are left unanswered. A long supplementary author’s note testifies to the story’s lacunae.

Lovely to gaze upon and offering characters with promise, but the story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. (glossary, timeline) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5475-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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As ephemeral as a valentine.


Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.


A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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