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MALAIKA’S SURPRISE

From the Malaika series , Vol. 3

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

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. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

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

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. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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HOW TO CATCH A MAMASAURUS

From the How To Catch… series

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series.

Another creature is on the loose.

The long-running series continues its successful formula with this Hallmark card of a book, which features bright illustrations and catchy rhymes. This time, the mythical creature the racially diverse children set out to catch is an absent mom who does it all (lists of descriptors include the words banker, caregiver, nurse, doctor, driver, chef, housekeeper, teacher, entertainer, playmate, laundry service, problem solver, handywoman, cleaner, and alarm clock) but doesn’t seem to have a job outside the home and is inexplicably a dinosaur. As the children prepare gifts and a meal for her, the text becomes an ode to the skills the Mamasaurus possesses (“Day or night she’s always there. / She meets every wish and need”) and values she instills (“Sometimes life can mean hard work,” “kindness matters,” and “what counts is doing your best”). This well-intentioned selection veers into cliche generously sprinkled with saccharine but manages to redeem itself with its appreciation for mothers and all that they may do. Endpapers include a “to” and “from” page framed in a heart, as well as a page where young gift givers or recipients can draw a picture of their Mamasaurus.

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728274300

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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