An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism.

BENJI, THE BAD DAY, AND ME

Who wins in a competition for attention with a sibling with autism? It’s not a “who,” it’s a “what”: brotherly love.

It seems the universe is conspiring against Sammy. He is fed up with trouble at school, a pizza shortage, a missed bus stop, and rain, and he gets home only to be ignored because Benji is having a bad day and has retreated to his box. Sammy reminisces about better times and blueberry smoothies, but when he starts crying over spilled milk, Benji leaves his cardboard sanctuary to snuggle his brother in a blue-blanket burrito, demonstrating that love is a never-fail remedy for bad days. Vibrant, full-color illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil, punctuated by his monochromatic memories, accompany the first-person narrative. On face-to-face wordless pages, Min lets readers see a woeful Sammy through the narrow window in Benji’s box, ensuring Benji’s agency. Giving order and structure to what can be an unpredictable world, the wooden inhabitants of Benji’s block city march across the title page, scatter about the story, and finally line up in columns and rows on the back of the book jacket. Pla selects a common theme, the power of familial love to overcome adversity, and deftly moves the challenges of autism to a supporting detail rather than a distracting focus in this simple picture book. That Min depicts this family as people of color further broadens this story’s inclusive reach.

An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62014-345-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez,...

MANGO, ABUELA, AND ME

Abuela is coming to stay with Mia and her parents. But how will they communicate if Mia speaks little Spanish and Abuela, little English? Could it be that a parrot named Mango is the solution?

The measured, evocative text describes how Mia’s español is not good enough to tell Abuela the things a grandmother should know. And Abuela’s English is too poquito to tell Mia all the stories a granddaughter wants to hear. Mia sets out to teach her Abuela English. A red feather Abuela has brought with her to remind her of a wild parrot that roosted in her mango trees back home gives Mia an idea. She and her mother buy a parrot they name Mango. And as Abuela and Mia teach Mango, and each other, to speak both Spanish and English, their “mouths [fill] with things to say.” The accompanying illustrations are charmingly executed in ink, gouache, and marker, “with a sprinkling of digital magic.” They depict a cheery urban neighborhood and a comfortable, small apartment. Readers from multigenerational immigrant families will recognize the all-too-familiar language barrier. They will also cheer for the warm and loving relationship between Abuela and Mia, which is evident in both text and illustrations even as the characters struggle to understand each other. A Spanish-language edition, Mango, Abuela, y yo, gracefully translated by Teresa Mlawer, publishes simultaneously.

This warm family story is a splendid showcase for the combined talents of Medina, a Pura Belpré award winner, and Dominguez, an honoree. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6900-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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