A loving but unsuccessful portrait.

READ REVIEW

THE BAR MITZVAH BOYS

A grandfather and his grandson become b’nai mitzvah together.

This picture book opens with an old man who has “only one regret.” An 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, he and his entire Polish village were sent to a concentration camp during World War II, where he was too busy fighting for survival to “begin the traditional yearlong training for his bar mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that celebrates a boy becoming a man when he is thirteen.” The first few pages briefly describe that history as the soft illustrations show the old man getting into a car with his family and driving toward a warmly lit synagogue. The text explains the deep bond between grandfather and grandson and that the boy’s father “suggested that his father and his son be bar mitzvahed together.” Age and youth study together, learn together, and celebrate together, “combining remembrance of the past and the unfolding of the future, recognition of the unbroken chain.” While clearly heartfelt and sweet, this story does not work as a picture book or read-aloud. Bogged down by lengthy, complicated sentences, no readily discernible underlying structure, and a flat plot, the story is neither entertaining nor particularly educational and is likely to confuse young audiences, who are several years from their own bar or bat mitzvahs.

A loving but unsuccessful portrait. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8075-0570-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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