GRANDMA'S CHOCOLATE / EL CHOCOLATE DE ABUELITA

Sabrina’s much-loved grandmother’s latest visit from Mexico is filled with gifts and interesting tidbits about chocolate, Mayan culture and history. Musical instruments, a traditional blouse (huipil) and pretty ribbons to weave in her hair allow Sabrina to play, dress and feel like a Mayan princess. Sabrina is mostly intrigued by the chocolate bars, which come from the all-important cacao tree, the seeds of which were used by the Mayans in their religious observances, bartering practices and, of course, the making of hot and cold chocolate treats. A gentle, well-translated bilingual text infused with a wise and loving family elder’s teaching is accompanied by earthy, gouache paintings of a round-figured abuelita with her beautiful, Mayan-featured granddaughter. Loose, tan-colored drawings of ancient Mayan scenes are frequently juxtaposed against the full-color modern settings to emphasize Sabrina’s cultural heritage; when she and her abuelita go to the market, for instance, they are depicted straddling two worlds, a monochromatic ancient Mexico on the left, and a modern supermarket on the right. A sweet and loving way to introduce history through family connections. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55885-587-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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Like a faithful teddy, sure to become a favorite for many readers.

LOUIS

A hug is a powerful thing.

Louis, a stuffed teddy bear, has grievances: His owner, a dark-haired kid with light-brown skin, has mistreated Louis in a variety of ways, including using the bear as a hankie, burying the toy in the sand, and subjecting him to the terrors of the washing machine. After Louis suffers the final indignity—almost being left behind on public transportation—the bear plans to make his escape. Savvy readers may surmise that Louis’ heart isn’t completely in this grand departure, as the teddy delays based on rain, cupcake-filled tea parties, and being the star of show-and-tell due to bravery during the bus incident. When the perfect moment to desert finally arrives, a last-minute hug helps Louis realize how much the kid loves and appreciates him. It’s a charming, genuinely sweet ending to a well-crafted story that leaves lots of openings for Rowan-Zoch’s boldly colored, crisp cartoon artwork to deliver a vibrant pop that will be appreciated in both large storytimes and intimate lap reads. Louis is marvelously expressive, panicking, glaring, and unexpectedly softening by turns. Caregivers and educators may see an opportunity in the story to engage in creative writing or storytelling based on the readers’ own favorite stuffed friends. Louis’ owner’s mom appears in one scene wearing a salwar kameez, suggesting the family is of South Asian heritage.

Like a faithful teddy, sure to become a favorite for many readers. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-49806-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text.

IF DOMINICAN WERE A COLOR

This nostalgic picture book celebrates the author’s Dominican heritage.

This poetic picture book sets out to dispel stereotypes and racism around skin color in the Dominican Republic, but it doesn’t quite succeed. The combination of Recio’s extended poem and McCarthy’s richly hued landscapes captures the inherent musicality and vibrancy of the Dominican countryside, coasts, and people. However, the text is sometimes hit or miss, especially when forcing a rhyme: “The shade of cinnamon in your cocoa, / drums beating so fast, they drive you loco,” feels forced. The Afro-Dominican author attempts to extol the different races found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, elevating the country’s Black roots: “It’d be the curls and kinks / that blend my hair, / the color of charcoal / mixed with the sun’s glare.” In her striving to reclaim colorist language, Recio doesn’t quite succeed, and her use of terms such as “yellow tint” and “the Haitian black / on my Dominican back” feels at odds with the powerful message she’s trying to convey while inadvertently recalling the racial caste system put in place by Spanish colonialists. McCarthy’s stunning art interprets the text with texture and light, her illustrations portraying the diversity and beauty of the Dominican people. The lush foliage, the impossibly blue skies, and the otherworldly pinks and oranges spring off the page with joy and verve. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.1% of actual size.)

Glowing art can’t entirely overcome uneasy text. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6179-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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