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Nothando's Journey

Picture books about modern African children are uncommon, with superb ones in short supply, making this an excellent choice...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

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A young Swazi girl finds strength and confidence by watching the movements of animals in this debut picture book.

In Swaziland, young girls celebrate the Reed Festival by dancing before the King and the Queen Mother. Nothando, about to dance for the first time, feels very nervous. Her brother, Jabu, who is “older and wiser,” helps her prepare, comforts her, and gives her the choice of how they will walk to the festival: the long familiar way or the short, untried route. Not wanting to be late, Nothando chooses the shorter path. When they encounter a wild dog, she is frightened, but Jabu urges her to watch the animal to see what she can learn from its movements. Casey depicts Nothando’s efforts by showing the dog’s prints and Nothando’s together, where both human and canine have performed the yoga move downward dog. Soon, the children rest on a hill overlooking a watering hole, where many types of creatures gather. Nothando applies her brother’s lesson and mimics these animals as well. Over several illustrated pages, with a single sentence of text on each, Nothando feels the strength of a lion, the calm of the fish eagle, and the courage of the baboon. When the children arrive at the festival, Nothando is no longer afraid: “She is grateful to be Nothando.” Although the themes of seeing oneself reflected in nature and learning from wild beasts and the land are hardly new, Manly’s application of yoga poses and the idea of embodying the movements of animals make this tale unique. The proportion of words to page is uneven, with some text-heavy pages that may frustrate young readers and others with shorter sentences that should be quite approachable. While the book offers a solid story and vocabulary that’s not too difficult for lower elementary readers, the most appealing aspect is the beautiful artwork. Casey uses many textures of collage paper, frequently torn at uneven angles to heighten the sense of landscape. Her colored pencil, pastel, and charcoal details make the animals and children come alive, particularly on the double-page spread where Nothando imitates several creatures at the watering hole. The baobab tree, constructed of twisted cords pressed together, looks as if a reader could touch the scratchy surface.

Picture books about modern African children are uncommon, with superb ones in short supply, making this an excellent choice for libraries seeking diversity.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-615-89235-1

Page Count: 35

Publisher: JABU Kids

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016


From the How To Catch… series

Only for dedicated fans of the series.

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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