MY AMERICA

Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.”

Whose America? The title pages are telling. As is the cover art.

In this read-aloud, the cover image of a sea of smiling faces in many skin hues suggests plurality (we/our) rather than the singular possessive “my.” Within, colorful spreads evoking early childhood drawings and self-portraits accompany text that poses as first-person narratives, as though real children were rendering their individual experiences. One-dimensional depictions of motives and methods of immigration to “America” result in dichotomies—here/there, then/now—that oversimplify differences and perpetuate stereotypes: Tae speaks of eating rice and kimchee in South Korea versus pizza in New York; Samaira from India informs readers: “I wear a bindi on my forehead.” And does a white child (Anna) asserting “All my family lives here….We have been here a long time” belong in this story centering children who have recently “come to live in America”? Notable absences of Native American and African American descendants—whose families have been here even longer than Swedish American Anna’s—underscore a thematic inconsistency, raising the question as to whose America this picture book, in fact, showcases. These simplistic, reductive representations undo otherwise bold attempts to promote empathy and inclusion. The well-known excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that acts as inscription on the Statue of Liberty closes the text.

Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.” (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9012-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

ABC OF FEELINGS

A mixed bag.

An alphabetical tour of emotions.

This British import mixes words that many young kids will know, such as brave, kind, and mad (the last defined in the American sense, as angry), with less-familiar ones such as overwhelmed and vulnerable. It even features at least one word that may be new to adults: “X is for Xenial….Xenial is being welcoming to strangers.” Compounding the difficulty here, the visual image of a Black kid dressed as a magician hugging a rabbit they’ve pulled out of a hat does not exactly illustrate xeniality (xenialness?). Other illustrations do a better job of helping readers understand the words being introduced. The illustrations feature racially diverse children and are usually paired in each double-page spread: “A is for Anxious. Anxious is feeling really worried about something. / B is for Brave. Brave is being nervous about something and doing it anyway.” On the A page, a brown-skinned kid cowers from the dragon that encircles their bed, as in a nightmare. Across the gutter on the B page, the ferociously scowling child confronts the now-intimidated monster. Kids will get an immediate sense of those two words. Animals, real and imaginary, often play a role in the pictures. The book will be best shared one on one or in very small groups, when children can really spend time examining the pictures and talking about their own impression of what is happening in each picture. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A mixed bag. (word list) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20519-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

NEVER SATISFIED

THE STORY OF THE STONECUTTER

A light treatment of a familiar tale.

The traditional Japanese folktale about a stonecutter who seeks ever greater prominence and power is retold in a modern, flippant version.

Stanley the frog works hard as a stonecutter. Though good at his job, he acknowledges the difficulties of his vocation. One day, on his way home from the quarry, Stanley observes a rabbit in a business suit “just sipping tea” and wishes he could be doing the same. Magically transformed with suit and tie, Stanley finds himself in the tea shop and declares, “Oh yeah! Now, this is more like it!” Soon a “commotion” around the king and his procession outside the tea shop prompts a new wish from Stanley: to be the king. Now the monarch, he proclaims “This rules!…I could get used to this kind of life!” As the sun beats down on Stanley, he grows tired of being the king and decides that being the sun would be better. Each new wish produces a limited amount of happiness or prestige with subsequent wishes to become a black cloud, a gusty wind, and finally the great stone. But Stanley’s satisfied only briefly, as the great stone must now contend with a new young stonecutter. Simple, bold, large cut-paper illustrations add to the absurdity, but overall this production with its implicit conclusion pales artistically when compared to Gerald McDermott’s stylized papercuts and Demi’s elegant paintings in their 1975 and 1995 versions, respectively.

A light treatment of a familiar tale. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-54846-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

Close Quickview