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AFRICAN

From the LyricPop series

A serviceable volume in a hit-or-miss series.

Jamaican artist Moss illustrates the lyrics of Tosh’s 1977 reggae hit “African.”

Tosh’s lyrics open the door to black people everywhere, regardless of nationality or geography, to consider themselves African. The first spread shows a world map with Africa at its center and arrows from the continent throughout the world, a vague representation of the diaspora. The refrain, “Don’t care where you come from, / as long as you’re a black man, / you’re an African,” is interspersed with verses that list cities and countries of residence as far flung as Russia and Taiwan, naming different complexions and denominations as inconsequential as well. The joyful illustrations depict young and older black people of various colors, with many different hairstyles and wearing an array of clothing styles, playing, riding, dancing, and walking. The settings faithfully convey the scenery of the locales named. However, the depiction of African wildlife instead of people on several spreads of the refrain, juxtaposed with the people and buildings in other illustrations, risks obscuring the realities of modern, urban Africa. And although modern readers may balk at the gendered chorus, the dynamic art and text work together to form a loving ode to belonging for black people of the diaspora. This is one of four in the new LyricPop series. It and Christine McVie’s Don’t Stop, illustrated by Nusha Ashjaee, which depicts a pink bunny playing with woodland friends as winter melts into spring, are two that work in this series of lyrics-turned–picture book. Skip Paul Hoppe’s interpretation of Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s “Good Vibrations,” in which a kid and a dog surf in unlikely circumstances, and Margaret McCartney’s version of Dee Snider’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” depicting three toddlers resisting naptime. A QR code on the back opens up a Spotify playlist with all the series songs.

A serviceable volume in a hit-or-miss series. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61775-799-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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THE BIG CHEESE

From the Food Group series

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers.

A winning wheel of cheddar with braggadocio to match narrates a tale of comeuppance and redemption.

From humble beginnings among kitchen curds living “quiet lives of pasteurization,” the Big Cheese longs to be the best and builds success and renown based on proven skills and dependable results: “I stuck to the things I was good at.” When newcomer Wedge moves to the village of Curds-on-Whey, the Cheese’s star status wobbles and falls. Turns out that quiet, modest Wedge is also multitalented. At the annual Cheese-cathlon, Wedge bests six-time winner Cheese in every event, from the footrace and chess to hat making and bread buttering. A disappointed Cheese throws a full-blown tantrum before arriving at a moment of truth: Self-calming, conscious breathing permits deep relief that losing—even badly—does not result in disaster. A debrief with Wedge “that wasn’t all about me” leads to further realizations: Losing builds empathy for others; obsession with winning obscures “the joy of participating.” The chastened cheddar learns to reserve bragging for lifting up friends, because anyone can be the Big Cheese. More didactic and less pun-rich than previous entries in the Food Group series, this outing nevertheless couples a cheerful refrain with pithy life lessons that hit home. Oswald’s detailed, comical illustrations continue to provide laughs, including a spot with Cheese onstage doing a “CHED” talk.

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063329508

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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