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

MY AMERICA

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 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Good advice and good reading practice rolled into one.

MY FIRST KITTEN

From the My First series

Kitten care presented early-reader style.

“Something soft and furry / Is coming home with me. // It is my new kitten. / She is as sweet as can be!” First-person, easy-reading text describes meeting the kitten, feeding the kitten, playing with the kitten, then taking it to the vet and keeping it safe. The first half of this volume is presented in rhyme with Wachter's photos of real children of various races and their kittens (always the same kitten-and-child pairings) imposed on simple cartoon backgrounds. On other pages, photos of kittens (all cute as the dickens) leaping, scratching, running, and sleeping appear against similar backgrounds. The second half reiterates the same information but in more detail. It passes on instructions in simple language for tasks like introducing a kitten to its litter box and interpreting the sounds and body language of your new furry friend. Jumping the species barrier, Biscuit creator Capucilli does a fine job of instructing young, new pet owners in the care of their wee feline friends in this companion to My First Puppy (2019). This helpful guidebook ends with a message encouraging aspiring young pet friends to adopt from shelters. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-12-inch double-page spreads viewed at 85.7% of actual size.)

Good advice and good reading practice rolled into one. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7754-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon Spotlight

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A light treatment of a familiar tale.

NEVER SATISFIED

THE STORY OF THE STONECUTTER

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 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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