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

AFRICAN

From the LyricPop 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 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

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 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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