The stilted and didactic dialogue takes this potentially useful bilingual title from inspirational to self-congratulatory.



Ten-year-old Salvador accompanies his grandmother, who does not speak English, to a community clinic in order to translate for her.

The white, male doctor is surly and rude, and the boy recognizes a need for bilingual/bicultural medical personnel in immigrant communities such as his own. This quasi-autobiographical account of a young boy aspiring to become a physician in the United States implies some disturbing conclusions with its extreme depiction, one being that only bilingual doctors are competent and/or caring. “There must be a clinic with better doctors. If only that doctor spoke Spanish…” Salvador muses. Readers learn that Abuela didn’t consult doctors in El Salvador, yet she states authoritatively that “in El Salvador, doctors really care for their patients”—a point of potential confusion for readers. Regrettably, linked to this unsatisfactory clinic visit is the message that Mexican food is unhealthy and to be avoided; while introduced to demonstrate the doctor’s cluelessness about Latin American cultures, the stereotype goes unquestioned. The abrupt conclusion is so heavy-handed and contrived that it eclipses any positive message. “That night, he imagined the amazing journey of becoming a doctor, wondering about mysterious and marvelous places like college and medical school.” Castillo’s background as a comic artist is successfully expressed in the characters’ exaggerated expressions and in her predominantly red and orange color scheme.

The stilted and didactic dialogue takes this potentially useful bilingual title from inspirational to self-congratulatory. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-846-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference.


From the Questioneers series

Sofia Valdez proves that community organizers of any age can have a positive impact.

After a trash-heap eyesore causes an injury to her beloved abuelo, Sofia springs into action to bring big change to her neighborhood. The simple rhymes of the text follow Sofia on her journey from problem through ideas to action as she garners community support for an idyllic new park to replace the dangerous junk pile. When bureaucracy threatens to quash Sofia’s nascent plan, she digs deep and reflects that “being brave means doing the thing you must do, / though your heart cracks with fear. / Though you’re just in Grade Two.” Sofia’s courage yields big results and inspires those around her to lend a hand. Implied Latinx, Sofia and her abuelo have medium brown skin, and Sofia has straight brown hair (Abuelo is bald). Readers will recognize Iggy Peck, Rosie Revere, and Ada Twist from Beaty’s previous installments in the Questioneers series making cameo appearances in several scenes. While the story connects back to the title and her aptitude for the presidency in only the second-to-last sentence of the book, Sofia’s leadership and grit are themes throughout. Roberts’ signature illustration style lends a sense of whimsy; detailed drawings will have readers scouring each page for interesting minutiae.

Fun but earnest, this rhyming romp reminds readers that one young person can make a difference. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3704-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

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Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text.


This nostalgic picture book celebrates the author’s Dominican heritage.

This poetic picture book sets out to dispel stereotypes and racism around skin color in the Dominican Republic, but it doesn’t quite succeed. The combination of Recio’s extended poem and McCarthy’s richly hued landscapes captures the inherent musicality and vibrancy of the Dominican countryside, coasts, and people. However, the text is sometimes hit or miss, especially when forcing a rhyme: “The shade of cinnamon in your cocoa, / drums beating so fast, they drive you loco,” feels forced. The Afro-Dominican author attempts to extol the different races found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, elevating the country’s Black roots: “It’d be the curls and kinks / that blend my hair, / the color of charcoal / mixed with the sun’s glare.” In her striving to reclaim colorist language, Recio doesn’t quite succeed, and her use of terms such as “yellow tint” and “the Haitian black / on my Dominican back” feels at odds with the powerful message she’s trying to convey while inadvertently recalling the racial caste system put in place by Spanish colonialists. McCarthy’s stunning art interprets the text with texture and light, her illustrations portraying the diversity and beauty of the Dominican people. The lush foliage, the impossibly blue skies, and the otherworldly pinks and oranges spring off the page with joy and verve. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.1% of actual size.)

Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6179-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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