BOTTLE CAP BOYS

DANCING ON ROYAL STREET

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

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 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

THE GRUFFALO

The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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