A PRIMER ABOUT THE FLAG

The title opens Bell’s poetic text, perhaps making readers anticipate seeing Old Glory, as in illustrator Raschka’s I Pledge Allegiance (2004). Cover art, however, omits the Stars and Stripes; indeed, the U.S. flag is conspicuously absent from all illustrations, although a spread reading, “There are flags on the moon, flags in cemeteries, costume flags,” includes stripes, stars, reds, whites and blues. Ultimately, this isn’t a primer about the flag but about “certain ones,” flags in general—perhaps provoking readers to think about allegiance to flags as symbols for all sorts of places, concepts, ideas and ideals. The figures and settings in the mixed-media illustrations are rendered in blacks, whites and grays, allowing vibrantly colored flags to stand out. And what other “certain” flags are included? Many. “There are Bed & Breakfast flags…There are little flags that come from the barrel of a gun / and say, BANG.” A final scene depicting a crowd following someone carrying a tree at his “waist just like a flag” asks readers to consider how a flag is defined and imbued with meaning only if we’ve told people “what it stood for.” Raise the banner high—this picture book is a triumph. (Picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4991-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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An edge-of-your-seat read.

THE CANYON'S EDGE

A girl’s birthdays mark parallel tragedies for her broken family unit.

Last year’s celebration at a restaurant ended in an unexplained public shooting, and Nora’s mother died. She and her father are still wrestling with their trauma, Nora with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD. For this year’s outing, Nora and her father head into the deserts of the Southwest on a rock-climbing expedition. They descend into a 40-foot deep slot canyon, then hike along inside until a flash flood barrels through the canyon, washing away all their supplies…and Nora’s father. She’s left to survive this symbolic and living nightmare on her own. Thankfully, she can make continuous use of her parents’ thorough training in desert knowledge. Brief sections of prose bracket the meat of the story, which is in verse, a choice highly effective in setting tone and emotional resonance for the heightened situation. Bowling’s poems run a gamut of forms, transforming the literal shape of the text just as the canyon walls surrounding Nora shape her trek. The voice of Nora’s therapist breaks through occasionally, providing a counterpoint perspective. Nora is White while two characters seen in memories have brown skin. The narrative also names local Native peoples. Elements of the survival story and psychological thriller combine with strong symbolism to weave a winding, focused, stunning narrative ultimately about the search for healing.

An edge-of-your-seat read. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49469-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Utterly compelling.

WHEN I WAS EIGHT

The authors of Fatty Legs (2010) distill that moving memoir of an Inuit child’s residential school experience into an even more powerful picture book.

“Brave, clever, and as unyielding” as the sharpening stone for which she’s named, Olemaun convinces her father to send her from their far-north village to the “outsiders’ school.” There, the 8-year-old receives particularly vicious treatment from one of the nuns, who cuts her hair, assigns her endless chores, locks her in a dark basement and gives her ugly red socks that make her the object of other children’s taunts. In her first-person narration, she compares the nun to the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, a story she has heard from her sister and longs to read for herself, subtly reminding readers of the power of literature to help face real life. Grimard portrays this black-cloaked nun with a scowl and a hooked nose, the image of a witch. Her paintings stretch across the gutter and sometimes fill the spreads. Varying perspectives and angles, she brings readers into this unfamiliar world. Opening with a spread showing the child’s home in a vast, frozen landscape, she proceeds to hone in on the painful school details. A final spread shows the triumphant child and her book: “[N]ow I could read.”

Utterly compelling. (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-490-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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