WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT AMERICANS

A simplistic but good-hearted effort.

A paean to Americans that features a heavy emphasis on diversity.

This fact is immediately indicated by the “It’s a Small World” cover illustration—jammed with people of seemingly every possible category, including a lad in a wheelchair, women in hijab, and an interracial female couple holding hands. Readers will soon max out on the overbusy and slightly caricatured illustrations that crowd each page, sometimes with a forced whimsy that defies rhyme and reason (Lady Liberty holds a huge ice cream cone). Depictions of Native Americans, presidents and patriots, Russian Jews, and robust mustachioed immigrant men fulfill customary stereotypes, and the author trots out the “apple pie” trope, informing readers that its roots are international (but fails to explain how apples got to North America from what is now Kazakhstan). The oversimplified text does a disservice to complicated issues: “Even if we make bad laws, we can always fix our mistakes.” Similarly, slavery is glossed over, citing only the fact that “enslaved people suffered and were denied every possible freedom.” With these caveats, the author’s apparent intention of celebrating immigration to the U.S. is a laudable one, and she hints that “rules” are prohibiting open access. A timeline provides an overview of landmark moments including the Iroquois Confederacy, Chinese Exclusion Act, and opening of Ellis Island.

A simplistic but good-hearted effort. (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-524-73803-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

HERE WE GO DIGGING FOR DINOSAUR BONES

A common topic ably presented—with a participatory element adding an unusual and brilliant angle.

To the tune of a familiar ditty, budding paleontologists can march, dig, and sift with a crew of dinosaur hunters.

Modeling her narrative after “Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush,” Lendroth (Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, 2014, etc.) invites readers to add appropriate actions and gestures as they follow four scientists—modeled by Kolar as doll-like figures of varied gender and racial presentation, with oversized heads to show off their broad smiles—on a dig. “This is the way we clean the bones, clean the bones, clean the bones. / This is the way we clean the bones on a warm and sunny morning.” The smiling paleontologists find, then carefully excavate, transport, and reassemble the fossil bones of a T. rex into a museum display. A fleshed-out view of the toothy specimen on a wordless spread brings the enterprise to a suitably dramatic climax, and unobtrusive notes in the lower corners capped by a closing overview add digestible quantities of dino-detail and context. As in Jessie Hartland’s How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum (2011), the combination of patterned text and bright cartoon pictures of scientists at accurately portrayed work offers just the ticket to spark or feed an early interest in matters prehistoric.

A common topic ably presented—with a participatory element adding an unusual and brilliant angle. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62354-104-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous...

A first introduction to the iconic civil rights activist.

“She was very little and very brave, and she always tried to do what was right.” Without many names or any dates, Kaiser traces Parks’ life and career from childhood to later fights for “fair schools, jobs, and houses for black people” as well as “voting rights, women’s rights and the rights of people in prison.” Though her refusal to change seats and the ensuing bus boycott are misleadingly presented as spontaneous acts of protest, young readers will come away with a clear picture of her worth as a role model. Though recognizable thanks to the large wire-rimmed glasses Parks sports from the outset as she marches confidently through Antelo’s stylized illustrations, she looks childlike throughout (as characteristic of this series), and her skin is unrealistically darkened to match the most common shade visible on other African-American figures. In her co-published Emmeline Pankhurst (illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo), Kaiser likewise simplistically implies that Great Britain led the way in granting universal women’s suffrage but highlights her subject’s courageous quest for justice, and Isabel Sánchez Vegara caps her profile of Audrey Hepburn (illustrated by Amaia Arrazola) with the moot but laudable claim that “helping people across the globe” (all of whom in the pictures are dark-skinned children) made Hepburn “happier than acting or dancing ever had.” All three titles end with photographs and timelines over more-detailed recaps plus at least one lead to further information.

It’s a bit sketchy of historical detail, but it’s coherent, inspirational, and engaging without indulging in rapturous flights of hyperbole. (Picture book/biography. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-018-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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