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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A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance.

MUMBET'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

With the words of Massachusetts colonial rebels ringing in her ears, a slave determines to win her freedom.

In 1780, Mumbet heard the words of the new Massachusetts constitution, including its declaration of freedom and equality. With the help of a young lawyer, she went to court and the following year, won her freedom, becoming Elizabeth Freeman. Slavery was declared illegal and subsequently outlawed in the state. Woelfle writes with fervor as she describes Mumbet’s life in the household of John Ashley, a rich landowner and businessman who hosted protest meetings against British taxation. His wife was abrasive and abusive, striking out with a coal shovel at a young girl, possibly Mumbet’s daughter. Mumbet deflected the blow and regarded the wound as “her badge of bravery.” Ironically, the lawyer who took her case, Theodore Sedgwick, had attended John Ashley’s meetings. Delinois’ full-bleed paintings are heroic in scale, richly textured and vibrant. Typography becomes part of the page design as the font increases when the text mentions freedom. Another slave in the Ashley household was named in the court case, but Woelfle, keeping her young audience in mind, keeps it simple, wisely focusing on Mumbet.

A life devoted to freedom and dignity, worthy of praise and remembrance. (author’s note, selected bibliography, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6589-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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