This dragon disappoints.

READ REVIEW

HU WAN AND THE SLEEPING DRAGON

A Chinese boy learns a craft and shares a humble gift.

Nine-year-old peasant Hu Wan gardens with his grandfather beyond Beijing’s Forbidden City in this story set “many centuries ago.” Each year, Hu Wan’s grandfather cultivates a special gourd—shaping and carving it to create an intricate, decorative cricket cage. This year, Grandfather allows Hu Wan to shape the gourd, and when Grandfather gets sick and only weakly recovers, Hu Wan must carve the gourd as well. He creates a simple cricket cage in the shape of a sleeping dragon, and a cricket’s chirps fill the dragon with beautiful music. Could this lowly dragon, with its simple song, bring peace to a young, bereaved emperor? Inspired by a display of cricket cages, Young attempts to create a parablelike tale from imaginings of ancient China. Indeed, descriptions of the cage-crafting and the author’s note with cricket facts are the most compelling parts of this text. The story itself winds desultorily from one romantic stereotype to the next, with no redemption from the art. Solano’s illustrations caricature rather than characterize—a palace guard appears to be modeled after stock Asian villain Fu Manchu—and they omit critical plot details: despite textual references, images of the sleeping dragon do not include visible breathing holes, raising the question of how a cricket would actually survive inside.

This dragon disappoints. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-977-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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

SOFIA VALDEZ, FUTURE PREZ

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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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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