A subtly instructive, satisfying, and warm family tale.


For three siblings, a stay at their grandparents’ house becomes intriguing when they decide to restore a special music box in this debut illustrated children’s book.

Ricky, 9, reckons that two weeks at his grandparents’ cabin is bound to be “pure boredom” since it lacks video games, TV, or the internet. His teenage sister, Sarah, and 6-year-old brother, David, agree, but they have no choice. The first week with their grandparents actually goes pretty well. As Ricky says, “Luckily, I love them a lot”; then there are Gran’s cookies and things to do around the cabin, like fishing, exploring, and splashing in the creek. When the second week begins, Grandpa asks for help cleaning out the barn. Sarah finds a faded old music box that doesn’t work anymore. It had belonged to their mother, a moving-away present from her best friend, and meant a lot to her. Ricky gets the idea to fix it, and though the others are reluctant—he has a habit of not finishing what he starts—they get on board. With Grandpa’s help, they make a plan and carry it through together, sanding, staining, painting, cleaning, oiling, and rebuilding. Ricky perseveres to find the last piece needed to make the music box work. Their mother is delighted, and Ricky understands how great it feels to complete an endeavor and see that it matters. The Dales, who appear on the History Channel show American Restoration, know something about fixing up old objects, which they use to good effect. The book, written with Shaw, is especially strong in showing all the steps involved, giving kids a realistic sense of how to break down a project into manageable chunks. Everyone has a chance to be involved and brings different strengths; Sarah, for example, who has experience working on her bike, is given the task of taking apart the box’s gears, cleaning, and oiling them. The box’s importance to the kids’ mother is an effective undercurrent, as is Ricky’s growth in learning how to follow an enterprise through from start to finish. Allen’s full-color, amusing images show members of a Caucasian family whose vivid facial expressions help define their personalities.

A subtly instructive, satisfying, and warm family tale.

Pub Date: May 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-23353-5

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Bookin It

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

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The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.


A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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