MOSQUITOES CAN'T BITE NINJAS

A mosquito doesn’t stand a chance against a ninja.

While clearly intended as a humorous text about a pesky mosquito and a pint-sized “ninja,” the depiction of the latter brings up troublesome characterization matters. The opening text declares that “mosquitoes bite all kinds of people,” and the cartoon-style art (reminiscent of Kate Beaton’s work) provides an aerial view of the insect zooming toward a diverse community. The ninja is depicted apart from this community, is assigned no pronouns, and is always clad in black clothing that leaves only eyes visible. The ninja’s skin is light brown—a darker shade than some people in the earlier depicted characters and lighter than others—and the ninja is described as “sneakier” and “quicker” than the mosquito. In the picture depicting quickness, the ninja sits cross-legged on the ground and, with narrowed eyes glancing to the side, grabs the mosquito in midair with twigs held like chopsticks. Combined, these cues reinforce Asian stereotypes. The child-sized ninja doesn’t appear to be playing pretend, nor to belong to a family, but is joined by a “baby ninja” who wears colorful clothes and a ninja mask. The story’s resolution arrives when, instead of being bitten, the ninja bites (and evidently swallows) the mosquito when it gets stuck in a jam sandwich, delivering a bizarre end to the fraught tale.

Pass. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-215-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

LET'S DANCE!

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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PIRATES DON'T TAKE BATHS

Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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