Though this first entry is a failure, there’s potential here for this series if its producers are willing to immerse...

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NOEL FROM TANZANIA

From the Children Around the World series

First of a series dedicated to children around the world, this photo essay is a well-intentioned snapshot of the life of 8-year-old Noel, growing up in a Tanzanian village near Mount Kilimanjaro.

With this book of big heart and moderate resources, self-described missionary Duda makes the most of a 2016 visit to Tanzania by attempting to capture Noel’s story. Using her own photographs, the author shows his school, home, and daily life. Squeezing in some elementary Swahili (“jambo/hello”; “karibu/welcome”; “asante/thank you”), the book also includes a trip to the village marketplace. The intention of this new series is to introduce young American readers to children around the globe; according to the back cover, “The better we know each other, the easier it is to become friends.” If readers are expecting an expansive, diverse view of Tanzanian culture and the breadth of the experience and possibility of growing up on the African continent, this leaves much to be desired. While its approach is earnest and sincere, it is nevertheless a narrow, representative framing without even other voices drawn from the local Tanzanian community to amplify Noel’s. In the end it simply feels like the author’s brief, international faith-based field trip. Do readers meet Noel or simply browse the stories and photos the author brought back with her?

Though this first entry is a failure, there’s potential here for this series if its producers are willing to immerse themselves. Here’s to it. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9972667-1-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: River Junction

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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