MISS SMITH AND THE HAUNTED LIBRARY

When Miss Smith takes her class to a spooky old library, the kids are dubious; they get downright anxious when librarian Ms Creeper reads a few characters out of Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook: the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula, etc. Fright turns to fun when Ms Creeper passes out cookies and cider. Garland’s third Miss Smith outing is more fizzle than anything else, however. The target audience’s familiarity with any of the bad guys not in a Disney movie is tenuous at best, their lack of context rendering much of the tale meaningless. It’s rare for books about the magic of reading to be themselves magical, and this, alas, is no exception. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-525-42139-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

CELEBRATE KWANZAA

WITH CANDLES, COMMUNITY, AND THE FRUITS OF THE HARVEST

From the Holidays Around the World series

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017

I KNOW AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A DREIDEL

Fun, in an odd sort of way.

The old folk song is given a Hanukkah spin in a parody that blends Jewish tradition with art appreciation.

The kerchiefed grandma swallows a tiny dreidel placed atop her cream-cheesed bagel by the family cat, setting off the familiar chain of events. She swallows the oil, the latkes, 10 barrels of applesauce, a 20-ton brisket, a “mine full of gelt, before it could melt,” the menorah and candles until she is finally full. A large burp makes her feel better. The silliness, cadence and rhythm of the verse all work with the original tune; it can be a tongue twister at times but will keep kids engaged. “I know an old lady who swallowed a menorah— / A mountainous menorah, while we danced the hora.” Acrylic-based drawings using charcoal, pen and pencil place this bubbe in various scenes taken from classical paintings, providing an educational twist. She appears in comical versions of Munch’s The Scream and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. The applesauce in a red-and-white can spoofs Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, and the menorah is set against the background of van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Adults will see the humor but might wonder about the artist’s point in his note stating that “a new look at famous works of art seemed like the perfect way to help people of all backgrounds enjoy this fresh take on an ancient holiday.”

Fun, in an odd sort of way. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-439-91530-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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