Young readers will enjoy this spirited debut with insightful integration of cultural exploration.

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SUMO JOE

Friendly sibling rivalry sparks a face-off between the two Japanese martial art forms, sumo and aikido.

Spare rhyming text introduces Japanese-American Sumo Joe as a “Strong big bro, / built for sumo,” who is “gentle, though.” While sister Jo must go to aikido, Joe’s friends arrive to “practice sumo!” His two friends, both boys of color, are quick to help tie the special belt and construct their makeshift wrestling ring with various throw pillows. They continue with “teppo,” or drills, including flinging salt to purify the “dohyo,” or ring. Japanese terms, printed in boldface on first occurrence, are seamlessly incorporated into the text, explaining different aspects of sumo. An author’s note and glossary also provide extended cultural notes on both martial art forms, including sumo’s origins in Shinto. Iwata provides a warm pastel palette with characters full of movement and personality. This is especially apparent when Jo returns from practice with her hair flying behind her. Jo is tenacious in challenging her brother despite the traditional sumo practice that women cannot enter the ring once it is purified. When Sumo Joe accepts, readers are treated to a lively sibling duel with a good-natured conclusion. With a saturation of ninja/ninjutsu books in the market, this is a refreshing new take on the martial arts genre.

Young readers will enjoy this spirited debut with insightful integration of cultural exploration. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62014-802-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

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LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

A young boy yearns for what he doesn’t have, but his nana teaches him to find beauty in what he has and can give, as well as in the city where they live.

CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain or take the bus or go places after church. But through Nana’s playful imagination and gentle leadership, he begins to see each moment as an opportunity: Trees drink raindrops from straws; the bus breathes fire; and each person has a story to tell. On the bus, Nana inspires an impromptu concert, and CJ’s lifted into a daydream of colors and light, moon and magic. Later, when walking past broken streetlamps on the way to the soup kitchen, CJ notices a rainbow and thinks of his nana’s special gift to see “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Through de la Peña’s brilliant text, readers can hear, feel and taste the city: its grit and beauty, its quiet moments of connectedness. Robinson’s exceptional artwork works with it to ensure that readers will fully understand CJ’s journey toward appreciation of the vibrant, fascinating fabric of the city. Loosely defined patterns and gestures offer an immediate and raw quality to the Sasek-like illustrations. Painted in a warm palette, this diverse urban neighborhood is imbued with interest and possibility.

This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25774-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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