Commendably inspires respect for an older person but leaves some questions unanswered.

CLARENCE'S BIG SECRET

Imagine learning to read when you’re nearly 100!

Meet Clarence Brazier. Mortified on his first day of school when he couldn’t spell his name (he hadn’t learned the alphabet) and was mocked by other pupils, Clarence ran home and never returned. Shortly afterward, Clarence’s father was blinded in an accident, and the boy took over the family farm. Before Clarence married, he confided his illiteracy to his fiancee, making her promise to tell no one. When his wife died, Clarence was 93, alone, and lost; how would he manage? He taught himself to read, devising homemade primers from mail and packaging. Eventually, he told his daughter, a retired teacher, and she tutored him. Clarence died in 2012, aged 105. This is a well-written ode to motivation, perseverance, and the idea that it’s never too late, but readers may wonder why no one taught Clarence to read outside of school or why his wife did not teach him—these points are not raised in the story. Nevertheless, youngsters who are readers should feel empowered, and those who are not—yet—will take hope. The soft shades of the charming, textured, expressive illustrations aptly convey an old-time–y feel. Clarence is white; a final scene depicts him reading to diverse schoolkids. An informative author’s note includes a photograph of Clarence and sobering data about worldwide illiteracy.

Commendably inspires respect for an older person but leaves some questions unanswered. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77147-331-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier.

FACTS VS. OPINIONS VS. ROBOTS

Charismatic robots populate this primer for kids growing up in an era when facts are considered debatable and opinions are oft expressed loudly and without empathy.

Rex tackles a very serious topic infrequently addressed in kids’ books: how to tell the difference between provable facts and far-less-provable opinions. To do this, Rex employs a handful of colorful and chatty robot pals who run through enough examples to make the distinctions clear. For instance, it’s a fact that the blue robot has two arms while the gold robot has four. However, while they both like to dance, it’s less certain there’s a definitive answer to the question: “Which of them has the coolest moves?” When the green and yellow robots share their preferences for ice cream (yes, robots eat ice cream, just add oil or nuts and bolts), it turns into a fight that might have come off a Twitter thread (“We are getting chocolate!” “No way, buckethead!”). Via a series of reboots, the robots learn how to respect opinions and engage in compromise. It’s a welcome use of skill-building to counter an information landscape filled with calls of “Fake news!” and toxic online discourse. Rex never says that these ’bots sometimes act like social media bots when they disagree, but he doesn’t have to. Perhaps most importantly, Rex’s robots demonstrate that in the absence of enough information, it’s perfectly fine to wait before acting.

Vital information for young media consumers; it couldn’t be timelier. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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