Newborn Émile surely surprises big sister Malaika, but the warm, culturally attuned storytelling here meets all expectations.

MALAIKA’S SURPRISE

From the Malaika series , Vol. 3

Once again, Malaika’s life is changing, but Hohn and Luxbacher remain consistent in delivering an intimate and culturally rich picture book.

There’s a new girl in the neighborhood, and Malaika’s mother is pregnant, but readers first find Malaika and her stepsister, Adèle, dressed in familiar favorites—ornate masks and colorful capes—and ready for traditional West Indian carnival-inspired play. Like Malaika, readers will love the vibrant and glistening costumes that Luxbacher’s gouaches and pastels continue to enliven. Still, the blend of colors and found paper collage notably highlights the blended “brown and pink family” developing around Caribbean-born Malaika: her Afro-Caribbean mother, her White French-Canadian father, her rosy-cheeked White stepsister, and her soon-to-arrive biracial baby brother. In this third series outing, Hohn is firmly in her element, continuing the story of the little girl from the Caribbean acclimating to her new home in Canada, but the introduction of another little brown girl, Malayka M., who is also “from a far place” and whom our Malaika quickly befriends, explores new avenues of cultural and linguistic plurality. A brief glossary in the frontmatter provides an overview of key French, Caribbean, and Arabic terms readers will encounter throughout the story, which is endearingly narrated in Malaika’s own patois-inflected voice. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Newborn Émile surely surprises big sister Malaika, but the warm, culturally attuned storytelling here meets all expectations. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77306-264-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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