A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk.

FEARSOME GIANT, FEARLESS CHILD

A WORLDWIDE JACK AND THE BEANSTALK STORY

From the Worldwide Stories series

This latest in the Worldwide Stories series is a culturally eclectic remix of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale from the pair who looked at Creation tales in First Light, First Life (2016) and the Cinderella story in Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (2007).

This confusing, composite variant scarcely resembles the “Jack and the Beanstalk” rendering that most North American readers might know. The author draws on the stories of 16 different countries from Indonesia to Gambia, the United States to Mongolia, interweaving them into one narrative that will require multiple reads to interpret. With monsters that include an ogre, witches, the devil, and a giant, readers will wonder where the familiar pieces of the story are. Those acquainted with the variant arguably best known in North America will recognize “Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman” but little else. For example, there are no magic beans in this retelling. Where the narrative lacks cohesion, the unifying thread is left up to the illustrator. Paschkis’ comely folk-art–style gouache paintings recall the tapestries and textiles of the various countries represented in the story, and readers will be able to discern the main character in each illustration. It’s a shame that more extensive notes than the pointer to SurLaLune Fairy Tales and Margaret Read MacDonald’s Tom Thumb (1993) are not offered for those curious readers who would wish to further pursue the divergent iterations presented here.

A clever but disjointed take, with no Jack and no beanstalk. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-15177-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier.

FACTS VS. OPINIONS VS. ROBOTS

Charismatic robots populate this primer for kids growing up in an era when facts are considered debatable and opinions are oft expressed loudly and without empathy.

Rex tackles a very serious topic infrequently addressed in kids’ books: how to tell the difference between provable facts and far-less-provable opinions. To do this, Rex employs a handful of colorful and chatty robot pals who run through enough examples to make the distinctions clear. For instance, it’s a fact that the blue robot has two arms while the gold robot has four. However, while they both like to dance, it’s less certain there’s a definitive answer to the question: “Which of them has the coolest moves?” When the green and yellow robots share their preferences for ice cream (yes, robots eat ice cream, just add oil or nuts and bolts), it turns into a fight that might have come off a Twitter thread (“We are getting chocolate!” “No way, buckethead!”). Via a series of reboots, the robots learn how to respect opinions and engage in compromise. It’s a welcome use of skill-building to counter an information landscape filled with calls of “Fake news!” and toxic online discourse. Rex never says that these ’bots sometimes act like social media bots when they disagree, but he doesn’t have to. Perhaps most importantly, Rex’s robots demonstrate that in the absence of enough information, it’s perfectly fine to wait before acting.

Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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