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

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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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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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I LOVE MY COLORFUL NAILS

From the Égalité series

A timely look at self-expression.

Kindergarten-age Ben paints his fingernails because he loves their colorful appeal. Unfortunately, not everyone does. While walking to school one morning, Ben is harassed by two other boys: “Painting your nails is for girls. You’re a girl! You’re a girl!” Ben initially internalizes the negative feelings but eventually tells his parents. Although Ben’s father shows solidarity by painting his nails as well, this does not stop the bullying. Ben sadly kowtows to gender conformity and paints his nails only on the weekend, although his father continues to pick him up after school with painted nails. On Ben’s birthday, his entire class surprises him with painted nails, and at recess, they do it again. End of story! Educators and caregivers should prepare themselves for the barrage of logical questions that are sure to follow: Why didn’t Ben’s parents talk to his teacher about the bullying? What happened the next day? Did the bullies learn anything? Books about gender nonconformity are needed, as are titles that celebrate general messages of acceptance, but this story is too superficial and the ending too slapdash to be worth the attention. Gusti’s illustrations, which echo the stylings of Jules Pfeiffer, do little to enhance the text. Most characters appear white, while darker-skinned characters are reduced to background filler only. The book is also available in Spanish.

Skip it. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-84-17123-59-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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