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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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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