DOUNIA AND THE MAGIC SEEDS

A moving refugee story laced with optimism and magic.

A young girl and her grandparents must leave war-torn Aleppo, Syria, to find a new home.

Dounia, whose name means the world in Arabic, goes to the souk to get baraka seeds for her grandmother Teta Mouneh. The spice seller, Abdo, gives her the seeds and tells her they are magic. At home, her neighbor Mrs. Dabbouss reads the coffee grounds in Teta Mouneh’s cup and foresees an arduous journey that will end with “a blue house in a bright white country.” Teta tells Dounia to hold on to some of the seeds. One night, as the two of them dry eggplant on the roof, a bomb explodes in the courtyard, breaking windows, destroying the fountain, and killing Kiki, the family’s pet canary. Jeddo Darwish, Dounia’s grandfather, announces that they must leave and gives her a dove carved from soap. As they travel, Dounia realizes she still has several of the baraka seeds, and each time she tosses one, something happens to ease them along on their trek. In this tale translated from French, Zarif captures the perilous journey well, blending grim elements—travel by boat, barbed wire fences, soldiers—with the fantastical. The artwork has a whimsical feeling that makes the tough subject matter manageable. In an author’s note, Zarif discusses her sadness at seeing the devastating of Aleppo, where she grew up, and her hopes for her people. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A moving refugee story laced with optimism and magic. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-77147-523-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

THE BIG CHEESE

From the Food Group series

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers.

A winning wheel of cheddar with braggadocio to match narrates a tale of comeuppance and redemption.

From humble beginnings among kitchen curds living “quiet lives of pasteurization,” the Big Cheese longs to be the best and builds success and renown based on proven skills and dependable results: “I stuck to the things I was good at.” When newcomer Wedge moves to the village of Curds-on-Whey, the Cheese’s star status wobbles and falls. Turns out that quiet, modest Wedge is also multitalented. At the annual Cheese-cathlon, Wedge bests six-time winner Cheese in every event, from the footrace and chess to hat making and bread buttering. A disappointed Cheese throws a full-blown tantrum before arriving at a moment of truth: Self-calming, conscious breathing permits deep relief that losing—even badly—does not result in disaster. A debrief with Wedge “that wasn’t all about me” leads to further realizations: Losing builds empathy for others; obsession with winning obscures “the joy of participating.” The chastened cheddar learns to reserve bragging for lifting up friends, because anyone can be the Big Cheese. More didactic and less pun-rich than previous entries in the Food Group series, this outing nevertheless couples a cheerful refrain with pithy life lessons that hit home. Oswald’s detailed, comical illustrations continue to provide laughs, including a spot with Cheese onstage doing a “CHED” talk.

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063329508

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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