A wonderful springboard for cross-cultural understanding conveyed through deeply symbolic art.

NANA AKUA GOES TO SCHOOL

An open-hearted tribute to children with immigrant parents or grandparents.

Next Monday is Grandparents Day, and Zura, a brown-skinned girl of African descent, has a problem. Though excited, Zura worries about her classmates’ responses to Nana Akua, who has facial markings—a tradition of the Akan people of Ghana that identifies their tribal family. Sometimes in public, people have made negative comments and stared. When Zura tells Nana Akua her worries at home, Nana pulls out Zura’s favorite quilt, adorned with West African Adinkra symbols, and makes a plan to help Zura’s classmates understand her facial markings. On Grandparents Day, Nana and Zura wear African dresses, and Nana explains her markings, comparing them to tattoos. She invites the children to choose an Adinkra from the quilt, each of which has a meaning (explained on the endpapers), and they and their grandparents enjoy the personal introduction to Adinkras Nana gives them. Harrison contributes spectacular collage art that surrounds Zura’s family with colors, patterns, and objects, such as an African drum, pottery, art, and Black dolls, that connect them with West Africa. Harrison also illustrates a full page of Nana Akua’s face, gazing directly at readers. Her brown skin, full lips, gray eyebrows, tufts of gray hair at the edges of her head wrap, and her gorgeous purple, patterned fabrics all invite readers to see Nana Akua.

A wonderful springboard for cross-cultural understanding conveyed through deeply symbolic art. (glossary, sources, acknowledgements) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-58113-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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