A familiar theme told from a distinct cultural and oral tradition by a Romani storyteller from England.

OSSIRI AND THE BALA MENGRO

From the Travellers' Tales series

Eager to play like other Traveler musicians, a Romani girl constructs her own musical instrument from a willow branch and recycled objects and is surprised by the results.

When Ossiri begins to play the new instrument she calls a Tattin Django, the ugly noises it makes disturb the community. Soon she is warned that her playing will wake the Bala Mengro, a huge, hairy ogre. Ossiri moves beyond the campsite to play alone and is immediately surprised by the emergence of the large monster from his cave. Frightened, she begs to be allowed to leave, but the ogre insists on her playing more and begins to sing and dance to the ugly sounds. He then pays her with a silver necklace, so she plays for him daily, earning another piece of gold each time. When a stranger tricks her and steals her instrument, his playing for the ogre does not produce the expected generous results. Ossiri finds only her Tattin Django and the stranger’s boots outside the ogre’s cave and realizes that her inner desire to play rather than wanting riches truly impressed the Bala Mengro. Scenes set within their rural encampment show a family of light-brown–skinned “rag-and-bone” people in long skirts, bandanna scarves, and hooped earrings making a living from recycled items, as explained in the author’s note. The inclusion of trucks, vans, and camper caravans along with horse-drawn vehicles makes clear to readers that the story is set in the present day.

A familiar theme told from a distinct cultural and oral tradition by a Romani storyteller from England. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-8464-3925-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials.

THE WHATIFS

Worrier Cora is plagued by the Whatifs until she learns a new way to tackle her anxieties.

Cora has a problem reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Whatif.” As she goes about her days, the Whatifs clamor for her attention. These embodied worries are presented as needling little monsters that range from silly and annoying to frightening. They become especially distracting in the lead-up to her big piano recital. Despite all her preparation, the Whatifs latch on and won’t let go. Just before her big performance, though, an older girl notices Cora’s distress. Stella encourages turning around the Whatif worries, a tactic drawn straight out of the cognitive behavioral therapy playbook. By reframing and pondering alternative and optimistic Whatifs, Cora is able to tackle her anxiety and succeed. Both Cora and Stella have dark hair and eyes and peachy complexions; Cora’s classmates and community appear fairly diverse. Cora and her Whatifs have a charming appeal beyond their focus on tackling anxious thoughts, making an enjoyable read-aloud for wide audiences. In her author’s note, Kilgore describes her own anxiety disorder. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51% of actual size.)

A thoroughly welcome addition to growing collections of socio-emotional development materials. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1029-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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