A two-part picture-book adventure told with serviceable illustrations, light humor, a gentle remembrance of a national...

Empire the Skyscraper in The Land of Man-Made Wonders

From the The Land of Man-Made Wonders series , Vol. 1 & 2

The Empire State Building leaves New York and takes a trip around the world, meeting other landmark buildings and spreading unity in the first two volumes of a quirky picture-book series.

It may have “Man-Made” in its title, but no human beings or other organic creatures appear in this two-part picture book, in which the only “living” things are buildings, machines, and other structures—including Empire, “the mightiest of the skyscrapers,” who “misses his Twin Brothers” (the unnamed World Trade Center) and wishes for peace in the world. Lady Liberty leaves her harbor to give Empire a pair of legs with a touch of her magic torch, and off he goes, crossing land and sea to form bonds with the world’s famous buildings and statuary. While the reference to “Twin Brothers” leaves it to parents to explain 9/11 (or not), the author executes his premise with a warmth that belies the book’s angular, architectural characters. He gives the story a dash of suspense (Empire is saved from drowning by the Queen Mary ocean liner after a lightning strike) and defines each structure with a simple personality reflecting it and its location in ways both obvious and unexpected. Empire receives advice from London’s “Big Benjamin,” dances with “Mademoiselle Eyefull,” plays chess (to a stalemate) with “President Kremlin,” and “sings a song of peace” with the Egyptian pyramids. Among other stops along the way, Empire is “enlightened” by statues at a Buddha convention. The first book ends with Empire’s nap on a “starlit beach” and continues in the second book as Empire wakes up to find he has company: the Great Wall of China, personified here as a smiling serpent. Empire returns home to finds a new friend—Freedom the Skyscraper—flanked by the spirits of his Twin Brothers, and all the skylines of the world join together in harmony. The book is illustrated with computer-generated images—colorful backgrounds, buildings with simplistic cartoon facial features—that are framed top and bottom by black borders; its white text is readable against the inky black pages.

A two-part picture-book adventure told with serviceable illustrations, light humor, a gentle remembrance of a national tragedy, and a message of universal healing.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-66117-8

Page Count: 102

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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