Flood’s closing tribute to the hogan’s “beautiful structure” and central role in Navajo life is moving but not reflected in...

THE HOGAN THAT GREAT-GRANDFATHER BUILT

Not rigidly cumulative but with echoes of “The House That Jack Built,” a reverent, measured portrait of a Navajo family in a traditional dwelling.

Readers hoping for more details about how a hogan is constructed beyond being repeatedly told that Great-Grandfather Jack built it “with his hands / out of earth, water, and trees” will have only Yazzie’s gloomy, indistinct views of a windowless log structure in a desolate setting to go on. Following a retrospective view of a glum-looking Jack posing with an axe, each living member of the young narrator’s family comes into view (there are no glimpses of the hogan’s interior). There’s grandmother, sprinkling corn pollen in the dawn, sister, lacing up for a morning run, and baby brother, tied tightly into a cradleboard. Against a final group view, the author concludes: “Here is my family / walking in beauty. / Here in our home, / our Navajo hogan, / that long, long ago, / Great-Grandfather Jack / built with his hands….” The paintings look to be oil pastels on a textured surface, and they are dominated by orange-y earth tones and deep blue skies. The landscape orientation of the book works well to emphasize the wide-open spaces, but the monumental figures within seem ill-served by the compression into a book format and the close viewing that entails.

Flood’s closing tribute to the hogan’s “beautiful structure” and central role in Navajo life is moving but not reflected in the ponderous, even joyless art. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-893354-97-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Salina Bookshelf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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