Well-meaning but naively idealistic.

READ REVIEW

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AMERICAN?

In their attempt to answer the titular question, authors DiOrio and Yoran go beyond the stated stereotypes of apple pie, fast food, and fireworks (a Chinese invention, it must be noted) to address a series of serious and timely civic issues.

The result is a mawkish primer of American ideals served on a feel-good platter of puff-piece Americana, complete with a senatorial endorsement. The America of this book is a good place: Equality is taken for granted, as is environmental protection. The multicultural people pictured throughout the richly hued pages are ethical, caring, and aware of their responsibilities as citizens. There is a hopeful, uplifting tone, matched by the illustrations’ rosy portrayal of the United States. Realistic readers (or maybe just the grounded and common-sensical ones) would, however, question whether the ideals delineated in the book are shared ones. One cannot help but wonder whose America this is? The book comes with a useful appendix for caring adults, but it’s hard not to interrogate the decision behind the selection and full listing of just the first and second amendments (out of 27) to illustrate the changing nature of the U.S. Constitution. As a sidebar, the authors’ biographies account for triple the words of the narrative, reinforcing the privileged self-serving vibe present through the pages.

Well-meaning but naively idealistic. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8380-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Pickle Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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JESUS IS RISEN!

AN EASTER POP-UP BOOK

Jesus pops up.

“It had been three days since Jesus died on a cross, and his friends were sad.” So Traini (The Life of Martin Luther, 2017) opens his ingenuously retold version of the first Easter. Beginning with two unnamed women clambering down a rocky hill to the graveyard, each of the seven tableaux features human figures with oversized eyes, light brown skin, and solemn or awed expressions posing in a sparsely decorated setting. The women hurry off at the behest of the angel lounging casually in a tomb bedecked with large crystals and fossil seashells to inform the “other disciples” of what’s happened. Along the way the women meet Jesus himself (“Greetings, my friends!”), who goes on to urge disciples “hiding inside a locked room” to touch his discreetly wounded hands. He later shares breakfast (“fish, of course!”) with Peter and others, then ascends from a mountaintop to heaven. Though the 3-D art and the flashes of irreverence set this sketchy rendition of the story apart from more conventional versions, the significance of the event never really comes clear…nor can it match for depth of feeling the stately likes of Jan Pienkowski’s Easter (1983). In the final scene Pentecostal flames appear over the heads of the disciples, leaving them endowed with the gift of tongues and eager to spread the “good news about Jesus!”

Skip. (Pop-up picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5064-3340-0

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

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A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for.

CELEBRATE KWANZAA

WITH CANDLES, COMMUNITY, AND THE FRUITS OF THE HARVEST

From the Holidays Around the World series

An overview of the modern African-American holiday.

This book arrives at a time when black people in the United States have had intraracial—some serious, some snarky—conversations about Kwanzaa’s relevance nowadays, from its patchwork inspiration that flattens the cultural diversity of the African continent to a single festive story to, relatedly, the earnest blacker-than-thou pretentiousness surrounding it. Both the author and consultant Keith A. Mayes take great pains—and in painfully simplistic language—to provide a context that attempts to refute the internal arguments as much as it informs its intended audience. In fact, Mayes says in the endnotes that young people are Kwanzaa’s “largest audience and most important constituents” and further extends an invitation to all races and ages to join the winter celebration. However, his “young people represent the future” counterpoint—and the book itself—really responds to an echo of an argument, as black communities have moved the conversation out to listen to African communities who critique the holiday’s loose “African-ness” and deep American-ness and moved on to commemorate holidays that have a more historical base in black people’s experiences in the United States, such as Juneteenth. In this context, the explications of Kwanzaa’s principles and symbols and the smattering of accompanying activities feel out of touch.

A good-enough introduction to a contested festivity but one that’s not in step with the community it’s for. (resources, bibliography, glossary, afterword) (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2849-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

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