A broken-toy purge turns into an art-making session in this didactic look at recycling and reuse.
Kenya’s story begins when her mother orders her to get rid of all her broken toys, including the one she is currently playing with, a prize from her art teacher. In a narrative shift, Kenya asks her dad for homework help—she has to tell her class what she did for spring vacation: nothing. A walk to the park only reinforces how much better her classmates’ vacations have been. But a museum tour provides the spark: a quilt made with reused scraps and a sculpture: “This artist recycled used bottles and made something to look at. It’s not useful, it’s art,” says the docent. Kenya labels it a “thingamabob.” The whole family gets in on the act at home, making new things from old and creating art. Kenya makes her own thingamabob that is sure to have parents of packrats cringing: it’s a huge heap of broken toys anchored in a clay base. Mitchell’s detailed watercolor, graphite, and digital illustrations show a loving black family whose expressions are rather static. Kenya’s friends and classmates tick off the other racial and ethnic boxes for a nicely rainbow classroom: white twins, a black trumpet player, an Asian soccer player, a Latina teacher.
The emphasis on art as something that’s not useful and on holding on to items by branding them as art makes this one to miss. (Picture book. 4-8)