BRIANNA, JAMAICA, AND THE DANCE OF SPRING

Havill and O’Brien team up for a sixth offering about Jamaica, the second in the series to include Jamaica’s Asian-American friend, Brianna (Jamaica and Brianna, 1999, etc.). In this dance-themed story, the girls are enrolled in the same ballet school, along with Brianna’s older sister, Nikki. For their spring recital, each girl is assigned a role in the “Dance of Spring,” but repeated casting changes have to be made due to an epidemic of strep throat. Of course, the show must go on, with Jamaica moving a step up to the part of a bumblebee. Nikki and Brianna both get sick and have to miss the recital, but later, all three girls give an at-home performance of their dances for their attentive families. Jamaica plays a peripheral role in this entry in the series, which really focuses more on Brianna and Nikki and their disappointment in missing an important event that looms large at every dance school. The story offers a look at an issue that is hard for kids (and parents) to face: sometimes we get sick and have to stay home to recover, no matter how important the missed event. O’Brien’s watercolor and pastel illustrations show cute, expressive children, but their dance-class attire and the positions of their legs and feet while dancing aren’t exactly precise. Jamaica’s fans will enjoy reading about another aspect of her life just the same, and further adventures for Jamaica and Brianna seem likely in this popular ongoing series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 25, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-07700-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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