I LIVE IN BROOKLYN

Takabayashi’s latest starts out promisingly. In the opening spread, six-year-old Michelle stands on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the East River and Lower Manhattan behind her, and explains that Brooklyn is one of New York City’s five boroughs. It is separated from Manhattan, she says, by a river. A map of Brooklyn, with neighborhoods labeled, appears on the facing page. But her pictures never really give readers a feel for life in one of America’s largest and most diverse communities. The author/illustrator’s previous offering, I Live in Tokyo (2001), however, was widely praised as a satisfying primer on Japanese culture. In fact, it’s this diversity that’s missing from Takabayashi’s otherwise charmingly detailed watercolors. A bustling double-page spread of a farmer’s market (in Manhattan’s Union Square, no less) reveals a largely white crowd. Coney Island, as seen from a sky-high seat on the Wonder Wheel, is painfully pale. In the day-in-the-life/things-I-like-to-do-with-my-family genre, this is fine, but it doesn’t look like Brooklyn at all. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 22, 2004

ISBN: 0-618-30899-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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MY ROTTEN REDHEADED OLDER BROTHER

Patricia has an older brother who looks "like a weasel with glasses," but that's just for starters. The real problem with him — besides his red wiry hair and his freckles — is that he's always telling her he can do everything better than she can. He can pick more blackberries, he can eat more rhubarb without puckering; he can run faster, climb higher, burp louder, and spit farther. Worst of all, he's four years older, "always has been and always will be." When Patricia's babushka — her grandmother — teaches her how to wish on a falling star, Patricia wishes to do something better than he does. She gets her wish and winds up seeing a different side of her brother as well. Polacco's (Babushka Baba Yaga, 1993, etc.; Pink and Say, see below) text is smooth, effortless, and completely natural-sounding. Her drawings are funny and vivacious — as usual, her characters are drawn with wonderful facial expressions and limbs akimbo. She has the ability to transport you to her settings — in this case, to a Michigan farm where you can practically feel the sun and smell the pies baking. Polacco has proved time and again that she is masterful both as illustrator and storyteller, and this book is no exception. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-72751-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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