MIGRANT

A family’s arduous journey from a farm in Mexico to a crowded dwelling in Los Angeles unfolds, literally, as a ribbon is untied and accordion-style pages open to reveal one continuous, aesthetically astonishing scene.

The densely packed black-and-white composition painted on traditional amate (tree bark) paper conjures both the mystery and stylization of pre-Columbian codices and the imagery and political overtones of a Diego Rivera mural. Written in the first person (English on one side, Spanish on the reverse), the succinct but pithy paragraphs read vertically, paralleling the visual layers. Low buildings, pigs and vegetation surround the young narrator as he feeds roosters in the top scene. When the economy changes, his father searches for work across the northern border. Tension mounts as the family follows later, jumping onto moving trains and avoiding police so they don’t “disappear.” Mirrored actions heighten the drama: An early game of hide-and-seek contrasts with the subsequent need to escape detection by border patrols, for instance. Arriving to a world of skyscrapers and thruways, mother and children find cleaning jobs, but their future is uncertain, as is the whereabouts of their husband/father. Content and design coalesce in a handsome presentation that invites readers to decode intriguing images in a pastoral setting suggestive of folklore—and in the process, arouses empathy for the all-too-real risks surrounding migrants.

Breathtaking. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0957-9

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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