Heartfelt, if florid.

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FRANCIS WOKE UP EARLY

An imagined tale of Francis of Assisi as a boy doing good foreshadows later saintly activities.

His Nonna, his Babbo, his Mamma and the maid are all still asleep, but Francis moves quietly in the dawn. Everyone is tired from staying up the night before, worrying about the she-wolf threatening the town and the livestock. When Francis goes out to tend the animals, he sees the shadow of the wolf. He brings the wolf an egg and some goat’s milk in a bowl, and she departs, leaving child and farm animals in peace, a presaging of the older Francis’ actions in the legend of the Wolf of Gubbio. Nobisso laces her telling with a surfeit of modifiers. The wolf has “intelligent eyes,” a “magnificent head” and “muscular ears nimbly twitching.” Hyde’s oil paintings are beautiful in a soft-focus kind of way, although they reflect a more High Renaissance style than Francis’ late-12th-century boyhood. Full-page images are bordered with leaves, flowers and geometric patterns, and the palette is ash rose, stone and gold. Nobisso’s dedication is in Italian, to her aunts and cousins, and while the few Italian words in the text are fairly clear, it is too bad she does not note that Nonna is Grandma and Babbo is Daddy.

Heartfelt, if florid.   (creators’ note, author’s postscript) (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-940112-20-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Gingerbread House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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A mildly stimulating and challenging exploration of the holiday.

ABC PASSOVER HUNT

An alphabet book employs a series of riddles and puzzles to engage children in the recognition of the various aspects of the Passover holiday.

An initial search to find all the letters in a double-page illustration features a typical table set for the Seder meal. This is followed by 24 rhymed questions posed in alphabetical order that present a variety of customs, symbols, characters, and concepts of the holiday. For example, the letter B is represented by “Baby Moses,” and readers are asked to choose the correct boat used to float the baby on the Nile. Children are offered a multiple-choice assortment of picture clues that are drawn in a clear, simple cartoon style. In the case of Moses, the vessels include a leaf, a cardboard box, a woven basket, an inner tube, a rowboat, and a rubber ducky. Some of the inquiries are straightforward or obvious for the holiday, while others, such as the page that addresses slavery, require some thinking and possible discussion. A variety of methods are also used to achieve the answers, such as solving a maze and reading a map. Others may require actual knowledge of the subject posed, such as the one on the 15th of Nisan, the Hebrew day and month that Passover begins. Together these short games can be used as an impetus to discuss the holiday's story and significance or to retell its various aspects.

A mildly stimulating and challenging exploration of the holiday. (author’s note, answer key) (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-7843-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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An average version of an extraordinary tale.

THE BEAUTIFUL LADY

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

Mora retells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On a cold day in December, Rose and her friend Terry are visiting Rose’s Grandma Lupita. After teaching Terry how to make paper flowers, the older woman begins telling them the story of the Lady of Guadalupe. The author keeps the tale simple enough for the book’s intended early-elementary audience, as she relates how the poor Juan Diego first met the Lady on Tepeyac Hill, outside of what is now Mexico City. Juan Diego follows the Lady’s request to go to the bishop and “ask him to build a special church for her on the hilltop.” The bishop requests a sign, which the Lady eventually provides to Juan Diego in the form of roses and her image on his tilma (cloak). The story returns to the present day, and Grandma Lupita and the girls share rose cookies in her kitchen. Although framing the famous Mexican story within a modern-day setting may appeal to some readers, doing so also removes some of the tale’s potency and leaves the text riddled with quotation marks. While vividly colored, the artwork by Johnson and Fancher often falls flat in the frame story, though placing the illustrations of the tale-within-the-tale within colorful borders is a nice feature.

An average version of an extraordinary tale. (author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86838-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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