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

READ REVIEW

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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A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia.

BUNHEADS

A young ballerina takes on her first starring role.

Young Misty has just begun taking ballet when her teacher announces auditions for the classic ballet Coppélia. Misty listens spellbound as Miss Bradley tells the story of the toymaker who creates a doll so lifelike it threatens to steal a boy’s heart away from his betrothed, Swanilda. Paired with a kind classmate, Misty works hard to perfect the steps and wins the part she’s wanted all along: Swanilda. As the book closes, Misty and her fellow dancers take their triumphant opening-night bows. Written in third person, the narrative follows a linear structure, but the storyline lacks conflict and therefore urgency. It functions more as an introduction to Coppélia than anything else, despite the oddly chosen title. Even those unfamiliar with Copeland’s legendary status as the first black principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre will predict the trite ending. The illustrations are an attractive combination of warm brown, yellow, and rosy mahogany. However, this combination also obscures variations in skin tone, especially among Misty’s classmates. Misty and her mother are depicted with brown hair and brown skin; Miss Bradley has red hair and pale skin. Additionally, there’s a disappointing lack of body-type diversity; the dancers are depicted as uniformly skinny with extremely long limbs. The precise linework captures movement, yet the humanity of dance is missing. Many ballet steps are illustrated clearly, but some might confuse readers unfamiliar with ballet terminology. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48% of actual size.)

A predictable ballet tale for die-hard Copeland fans or as an introduction to Coppélia. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-54764-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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