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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging.

ISLANDBORN

A young girl’s homework assignment unravels the history and beauty of her homeland.

Lola and her classmates are assigned to draw pictures of their respective origin countries. With excitement, the others begin sharing what they will draw: pyramids, a long canal, a mongoose. Lola, concerned, doesn’t remember what life was like on the Island, and so she recruits her whole neighborhood. There is Leticia, her cousin; Mrs. Bernard, who sells the crispy empanadas; Leticia’s brother Jhonathan, a barber; her mother; her abuela; and their gruff building superintendent. With every description, Lola learns something new: about the Island’s large bats, mangoes, colorful people, music and dancing everywhere, the beaches and sea life, and devastating hurricanes. Espinosa’s fine, vibrant illustrations dress the story in colorful cacophony and play with texture (hair especially) as Lola conjures images of her homeland. While the story does not identify the Island by name, readers familiar with Díaz’s repertoire will instantly identify it as the Dominican Republic, a conclusion that’s supported when the super recalls the Monster (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo), and sharp-eyed readers should look at the magnets on Lola’s refrigerator. Lola, Teresa Mlawer’s translation, is just as poignant as the original.

Together, Díaz and Espinosa present an imaginative, purposeful narrative about identity and belonging. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2986-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more