To prepare for the school Spelling Bee en Español, a young Latine boy gets a much-needed boost from his cherished Abuela.

Manolo seems prepared for the bee, as there are many words he can already spell: “F-a-m-i-l-i-a.” “J-u-n-t-o-s.” “C-o-r-a-z-ó-n.” Still, the lista de palabras includes words that Manolo doesn’t know how to spell, so Abuela helps him. During their lessons together, she shares stories from her childhood, when the “rule at school was ‘English only.’ ” Speaking Spanish—even in secret on the playground—resulted in punishments for the students, including being sent home, paddled, or having their mouth washed out with soap. Spurred by Abuela’s stories of the recent hurtful past, Manolo throws himself into practice even when frustrations set in. “Tengo fuerza.” On the day of the spelling bee, Manolo stands tall on stage thanks to Abuela’s strength. A measured reckoning with an oft-overlooked period in U.S. history, Genhart and Parra’s poignant collaboration explores the echoes of generational trauma and the power of societal change and hope. An author’s note explains that Genhart drew from the 1930s through the 1960s, including his mother’s experiences in Southern California. The closeness between Manolo and Abuela adds a layer of warmth to this poignant tale, making this spelling bee journey an eventual resonant triumph. The splendid, textured acrylic-based artwork is rich and vibrant; an especially inspired spread sees a determined Manolo scaling the word practico. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Tenderly tremendous. (references, Spanish alphabet) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780823450046

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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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

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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