An important story that just doesn’t quite come together.

BOTTLE CAP BOYS

DANCING ON ROYAL STREET

The tale of two brothers who have a tip-top, tapping time on the streets of New Orleans.

Rudy, wearing a green-sleeved T-shirt, and his brother Randy, wearing purple, meet on Royal Street, press bottle caps into the bottoms of their white tennis shoes, and the duel commences. They tap dance for audiences large and small, the rhyming text echoing the rhythms of their movement. To help readers keep track of the back-and-forth dialogue, each boy’s words are set in type that matches his shirt color. The text makes clear the goal of this duel: “who dances best / Eats good tonight.” Beignets, pralines, red beans, jambalaya, and “po’boys for poor boys” will constitute their feast, and they plan to save a seat on the trolley for Mama. Williams-Garcia tells an important story of how many industrious African-American boys in New Orleans make money entertaining tourists, but readers who expect the brilliance of One Crazy Summer (2010) and its sequels will find this picture book a disappointment. Lackluster illustrations that flatten out rather than enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of the spectators detract further from the book’s appeal. Williams-Garcia ends with a note about her experiences with New Orleans bottle-cap boys and provides a culinary glossary for those unfamiliar with Creole and Cajun cuisine.

An important story that just doesn’t quite come together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60349-030-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marimba Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Fun enough once through, but not much more.

THE SPAGHETTI-SLURPING SEWER SERPENT

A pint-sized sleuth tracks a purple underground monster.

When Mom scrapes the family's uneaten spaghetti into the sink, young Sammy Sanders hears strange slurping sounds. He becomes "77 percent convinced" that a spaghetti-slurping serpent lives in his sewer, and can't get to sleep. The next morning, Sammy and his little sister Sally investigate. There are meatballs and strands of limp spaghetti around the manhole cover! Sammy, whose round glasses make the whites of his eyes look as enormous as an owl's, can barely contain his excitement. After he removes the cover, Sally slips on some sauce and lands in the sewer, becoming a smelly sludgy mess. Sammy's left to investigate alone and comes up with a brilliant idea. Late that night, he sneaks out of the house with a salty snack for himself and a bowl of spaghetti for the serpent. But he falls asleep, and the huge serpent slithers up to the scrumptious spaghetti. Slurping sounds startle Sammy awake; he's face-to-face with the monster. There's just one thing to do: Share! Sammy' salty snack earns him a friend for life. And that night, he sleeps soundly, 100% sure that there's a serpent in his sewer. Zenz's illustrations, in Prismacolor colored pencil, look generic, but Ripes' yarn has pace and phonetic crackle.

Fun enough once through, but not much more.    (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7614-6101-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses...

BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, STRONG LITTLE ME!

This tan-skinned, freckle-faced narrator extols her own virtues while describing the challenges of being of mixed race.

Protagonist Lilly appears on the cover, and her voluminous curly, twirly hair fills the image. Throughout the rhyming narrative, accompanied by cartoonish digital illustrations, Lilly brags on her dark skin (that isn’t very), “frizzy, wild” hair, eyebrows, intellect, and more. Her five friends present black, Asian, white (one blonde, one redheaded), and brown (this last uses a wheelchair). This array smacks of tokenism, since the protagonist focuses only on self-promotion, leaving no room for the friends’ character development. Lilly describes how hurtful racial microaggressions can be by recalling questions others ask her like “What are you?” She remains resilient and says that even though her skin and hair make her different, “the way that I look / Is not all I’m about.” But she spends so much time talking about her appearance that this may be hard for readers to believe. The rhyming verse that conveys her self-celebration is often clumsy and forced, resulting in a poorly written, plotless story for which the internal illustrations fall far short of the quality of the cover image.

Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses the mark on both counts. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63233-170-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eifrig

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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