THE TROUBLE WITH BABIES

Complete with jolly stepfather, new neighbors, gay fathers, and a new baby, Freeman takes up where The Trouble with Cats (2000) left off. Holly, her mother, and new stepfather have moved. Holly has the same problems as she did before: staying brave in the face of new challenges and keeping the cats in the house. She also needs to meet her new neighbors. What a diverse group they are. Many—perhaps too many—racial, ethnic, and lifestyle groups are represented in Holly’s San Francisco neighborhood: hyphenated Aileen Cohen-Liu, Xavier with his two dads, and Annie with her Jewish/Polish mother and Chinese father. Xavier’s fathers are introduced quickly but have little to do with the story: “ ‘I have two dads. And no mom. Alan and Jim are partners.’ ‘Oh, now I get it,’ I said. ‘You mean they’re gay.’” As Holly works out the relationship between Annie and her yucky baby sister, the savvy reader will realize that mom and stepdad are about to spring their own yucky news. While there is some humor and the characters are likable enough, awkward first-person dialogue, unlikely situations, and a slow plot detract from total success. Even Xavier, the quirky boy next door, with his inexplicable crush on Annie and his “de-yucka-ma-box” invention, seems just another odd diversion. Smith’s scratchy black-and-white sketches mirror the world painted by Freeman, but add little to it. Though the generous font and thoughtful layout is the perfect form for new readers, the trouble here is there’s just not much story. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8234-1698-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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RAFI AND ROSI MUSIC!

From the Rafi and Rosi series

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

JUST THE RIGHT CAKE

A foodie’s delight, with a sweet message between the layers.

It’s all about the yum in this tale from Tosi, founder of Milk Bar, a chain of bakeries.

Now that his mom and dad are living apart, young Phil finds that his delectable double chocolate cake isn’t the same when he prepares it with just one parent at a time. Nor does making brownies with one and s’mores with the other quite butter the biscuit. His peanut butter cookie–making partner, Sammi, tells him that “every cake has a story. And sometimes stories change.” That sends him to the grocery store for inspiration and leads to a mouthwatering epiphany: “A Chocolate Brownie PB S’mores layer cake!” "New could be exciting and special,” enthuses the author before closing with a challenging but feasible recipe (with the suggestion to torch the top properly left for grown-up sous-chefs). Reinforcing the upbeat tone and positive outlook in this tale of family changes, Balsley’s cartoon illustrations depict a young patissier presenting the very picture of culinary self-confidence as he bustles about two kitchens while his parents look on affectionately and lend an occasional willing ear or hand. This one is best when dished up with sweets and a napkin, like all the better pastry-centered picture books. Phil and his father are tan-skinned, Mom is brown-skinned, and Sammi is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A foodie’s delight, with a sweet message between the layers. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780593110713

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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