If the story teaches any lesson at all, it’s this: A short attention span can be a glorious thing, particularly in a place...



Anyone who knows “The Tortoise and the Hare” probably remembers the moral: Slow and steady wins the race. This version of the story has a second moral: Go to Israel.

In this picture book, the title characters are friends who live in Tel Aviv, and they’re racing each other to the Dead Sea. Hare keeps getting distracted by the local sights. He stops by the shuk to buy dried apricots. He sits down in an oasis to enjoy tea and baklava. Readers will sympathize. Every page is full of so many wonderful distractions that the book feels like an ad for the Israeli tourist industry. If readers look closely at the artwork, they’ll see a bear on top of a unicycle, juggling as it rides, and a cat floating in the water, reading the paper. Instead of teaching the value of slow and steady progress, this version of the fable says: Stop and look around; there are olive groves and persimmon trees. The book is full of mixed messages, but if the moral is confused, readers won’t mind. There are animals everywhere: whales and ravens and swimming camels. They’re made up of bold, geometric shapes in gorgeous pastel colors.

If the story teaches any lesson at all, it’s this: A short attention span can be a glorious thing, particularly in a place like this. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2199-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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