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A powerful window into the perspective of a young immigrant.

Author Yang recounts her experience with selective mutism as a child.

Young Kalia’s Hmong family moved to the United States as refugees. After a cashier treats her mother, who’s still learning English, with disdain, Kalia feels like she has a rock growing in her throat every time she speaks in English (“I don’t want to be like the many people who speak English,” she thinks). Recess is particularly lonely, but she finds solace in the beauty of the natural world. Yang captures the profound isolation, embarrassment, and exhaustion involved in navigating life as an immigrant in a world that isn’t always empathetic. True to the author’s experiences, the protagonist’s challenges are refreshingly unresolved by the conclusion of the story, despite the book ending on a hopeful note. Hmong words are used in the book, and English translations can be found in the glossary; incorporating them into the narrative would have made for a slightly better flow. Nevertheless, Yang’s poetic prose sings in perfect unison with Lin’s gorgeously textured illustrations, rendered in earthy tones. The result is a compelling and heartfelt story that’s bound to resonate with anyone who’s ever struggled to express themselves or be heard. The book is capped with beautiful endpapers that feature repeating symmetrical patterns, reminiscent of those found in traditional Hmong embroidery, each one revealing glimpses of the story inside.

A powerful window into the perspective of a young immigrant. (author’s note) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728445687

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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This carefully thought-out explanation may surprise but should be widely appreciated.

Moving up in target audience from their explanation of reproduction, What Makes a Baby (2013), Silverberg and Smyth explore various meanings for the word “sex.”

In their own ways, Zai, Cooper, Mimi, and Omar respond to information in chapters about bodies, “Boys, Girls, All of Us,” touch,  language, and “Crushes, Love, and Relationships.” With skin tones in unlikely shades (blue! purple! green!) and wildly diverse crowd scenes, chances are good that any reader can identify with someone in these pages. Refreshingly, these crowds are diverse in a way that does not appear assembled by checklist. Lively design, bright, clashing colors, cartoon-style illustrations, comic strips, and plenty of humor support the informal, inclusive approach. Each chapter ends with questions to think and talk about. The author’s respect for different approaches to the subject comes through. No actual sexual activities are described except for masturbation, in the chapter that also deals with “secret touches.” The gender chapter tells how gender is assigned but notes “there are more than two kinds of bodies.” The character Zai doesn’t identify as either boy or girl. Illustrations show body parts of kids and grown-ups (nipples, breasts, bottoms, and parts biologically specific to boys or girls) demonstrating wide variety. Puberty will be addressed in a third title.

This carefully thought-out explanation may surprise but should be widely appreciated. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60980-606-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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An altogether trite, values-driven star vehicle—worthy of purpose but aside from occasional game action, as dull as a rain...

Fourth-grader “Derek” works his way through a batting slump, pulls an outsider into his circle of friends, and atones for being a bully in this semiautobiographical sequel co-authored by the recently retired Yankees captain.

The actual story is preceded by a good-behavior “contract” between the future star and his invariably strict-but-fair parents, a list of 10 “Life Lessons,” plus an introductory note explaining that this episode—the second in a planned 10—will be based on the theme “Think Before You Act.” It is entirely a vehicle for platitudes and behavior modeling. Notwithstanding the gibes of his friends, Derek holds out a welcoming hand to Dave, a seemingly standoffish new class- and teammate who turns out to be a lonely rich kid with absentee parents. Meanwhile, Derek’s delight at the opening of Little League season turns to determination as he goes hitless through the first three games. Then he angrily gets into the face of a kindergartener who is bullying his little sister, Sharlee, and is called into the principal’s office with his parents for a disciplinary conference. Wheeling along past billboard-sized doses of both life and baseball coaching, plus repeated reminders to “stay positive,” every plotline ultimately coasts to a salutary resolution: Dave earns general acceptance through improved play on the field; Derek shows sincere remorse for his misdeed and formally apologizes to his victim (who later befriends Sharlee); and the base hits finally start coming as Derek leads his team to the championship game.

An altogether trite, values-driven star vehicle—worthy of purpose but aside from occasional game action, as dull as a rain delay. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2315-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

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