THE CLEVER STICK

The titular stick is clever because “ever since he had fallen off the tree, he had been sharp.” He thinks things up (like the Pythagorean Theorem), but because he has no voice he cannot share his thoughts. He can draw, though, and he makes a pretty keen drawing in the sand, with a castle and boats in the lake and a dragon, and all the animals and insects approve. The rain washes it away, but the stick knows he can make another one. The narrative suffers on a couple of fronts. It never overcomes the challenge inherent in making a stick, however talented, a genuinely engaging character, and the illustrations are problematic. There’s no real sense of place, with the forest, the lake with a sandy shore and a meadow all modulating from one to the other with no communication of specific geography. Neither birds nor plants are distinguished, and the wild field rose looks exactly like a hothouse long-stemmed red beauty. Hard to see what might grab children’s attention or affection. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3950-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children.

AN ABC OF EQUALITY

Social-equity themes are presented to children in ABC format.

Terms related to intersectional inequality, such as “class,” “gender,” “privilege,” “oppression,” “race,” and “sex,” as well as other topics important to social justice such as “feminism,” “human being,” “immigration,” “justice,” “kindness,” “multicultural,” “transgender,” “understanding,” and “value” are named and explained. There are 26 in all, one for each letter of the alphabet. Colorful two-page spreads with kid-friendly illustrations present each term. First the term is described: “Belief is when you are confident something exists even if you can’t see it. Lots of different beliefs fill the world, and no single belief is right for everyone.” On the facing page it concludes: “B is for BELIEF / Everyone has different beliefs.” It is hard to see who the intended audience for this little board book is. Babies and toddlers are busy learning the names for their body parts, familiar objects around them, and perhaps some basic feelings like happy, hungry, and sad; slightly older preschoolers will probably be bewildered by explanations such as: “A value is an expression of how to live a belief. A value can serve as a guide for how you behave around other human beings. / V is for VALUE / Live your beliefs out loud.”

Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children. (Board book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-742-8

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A shining affirmation of Chinese American identity.

I AM GOLDEN

An immigrant couple’s empowering love letter to their child.

Baby Mei rests in her parents’ embrace, flanked by Chinese architecture on one side and the New York skyline on the other. She will be a bridge across the “oceans and worlds and cultures” that separate her parents from their homeland, China. Mei—a Chinese word which means beautiful—shares a name with her family’s new home: Měi Guó (America). Her parents acknowledge the hypocrisy of xenophobia: “It’s a strange world we live in—people will call you different with one breath and then say that we all look the same with the next angry breath.” Mei will have the responsibility of being “teacher and translator” to her parents. They might not be able to completely shield her from racism, othering, and the pressures of assimilation, but they can reassure and empower her—and they do. Mei and young readers are encouraged to rely on the “golden flame” of strength, power, and hope they carry within them. The second-person narration adds intimacy to the lyrical text. Diao’s lovely digital artwork works in tandem with Chen’s rich textual imagery to celebrate Chinese culture, family history, and language. The illustrations incorporate touchstones of Chinese mythology and art—a majestic dragon, a phoenix, and lotus flowers—as well as family photographs. One double-page spread depicts a lineup of notable Chinese Americans. In the backmatter, Chen and Diao relay their own family stories of immigration. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A shining affirmation of Chinese American identity. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84205-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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