Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging.

THE SMEDS AND THE SMOOS

Two youngsters from mutually hostile groups connect.

This tale of prejudiced extraterrestrials jumps immediately into rollicking verse. “By a loobular lake on a far-off planet / There lived a young Smed, / and her name was Janet. / Not far away, on a humplety hill, / There lived a young Smoo / by the name of Bill.” The patter and nonsense words (wurpular, trockle) invoke Dr. Seuss. Smeds and Smoos alike have antennae and tubular noses, but Smeds, red, have webbed feet they wear bare while Smoos, blue, sport elflike boots. The illustrations’ eye-catching colors are intensely saturated throughout, sometimes jarringly so. Despite parallel contemptuous commands to “Never, never play with” the other group, Janet and Bill secretly bond and grow up to marry. “Janet and Bill stole out that night / While their families slept / and the squoon shone bright. / They clambered into the Smeds’ red rocket. / (Grandfather Sned had forgotten to lock it.) / Bill pressed the button, and Janet steered… // …When their families woke, they had both disappeared!” A multiplanet search leads to reconciliation and integration. This unsubtle metaphor for fixing racism and xenophobia ignores real-world power imbalances: The Smeds and Smoos may distrust one another, but they share equal status. Moreover, the notion that interracial couples and mixed-race offspring—a purple Smed/Smoo baby—are a solution for racism is false and places an unfair burden on mixed-race readers.

Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-66976-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez,...

MANGO, ABUELA, AND ME

Abuela is coming to stay with Mia and her parents. But how will they communicate if Mia speaks little Spanish and Abuela, little English? Could it be that a parrot named Mango is the solution?

The measured, evocative text describes how Mia’s español is not good enough to tell Abuela the things a grandmother should know. And Abuela’s English is too poquito to tell Mia all the stories a granddaughter wants to hear. Mia sets out to teach her Abuela English. A red feather Abuela has brought with her to remind her of a wild parrot that roosted in her mango trees back home gives Mia an idea. She and her mother buy a parrot they name Mango. And as Abuela and Mia teach Mango, and each other, to speak both Spanish and English, their “mouths [fill] with things to say.” The accompanying illustrations are charmingly executed in ink, gouache, and marker, “with a sprinkling of digital magic.” They depict a cheery urban neighborhood and a comfortable, small apartment. Readers from multigenerational immigrant families will recognize the all-too-familiar language barrier. They will also cheer for the warm and loving relationship between Abuela and Mia, which is evident in both text and illustrations even as the characters struggle to understand each other. A Spanish-language edition, Mango, Abuela, y yo, gracefully translated by Teresa Mlawer, publishes simultaneously.

This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez, an honoree. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6900-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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