A simplistic but good-hearted effort.

READ REVIEW

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT AMERICANS

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 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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

ROSA PARKS

From the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

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 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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There’s not much beyond the razzle-dazzle, but it’s got that in spades.

ROAR

A DINOSAUR TOUR

Intense hues light up a prehistoric parade.

It’s really all about the colors. The endpapers are twinned head-shot galleries captioned, in the front, with scientific names (“Tyrannosaurus rex”) and pronunciations and, in the rear, translations of same (“Tyrant Lizard King”). In between, Paul marches 18 labeled dinos—mostly one type per page or spread, all flat, white-eyed silhouettes posed (with occasional exceptions) facing the same way against inconspicuously stylized background. The text runs toward the trite: “Some dinosaurs were fast… / and other dinosaurs were slow.” But inspired by the fact that we know very little about how dinosaurs were decorated (according to a brief author’s note), Paul makes each page turn a visual flash. Going for saturated hues and vivid contrasts rather than complex patterns, he sets red-orange spikes like flames along the back of a mottled aquamarine Kentrosaurus, places a small purple-blue Compsognathus beneath a towering Supersaurus that glows like a blown ember, pairs a Giganotosaurus’ toothy head and crest in similarly lambent shades to a spotted green body, and outfits the rest of his cast in like finery. “Today you can see their bones at the museum,” he abruptly, inadequately, and simplistically concludes.

There’s not much beyond the razzle-dazzle, but it’s got that in spades. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6698-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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