A Pollyanna for the 21st century

SARAI AND THE MEANING OF AWESOME

From the Sarai series , Vol. 1

Young debut author Gonzalez joins veteran co-author Brown (Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream, 2017) to kick off a semiautobiographical chapter-book series based on her life growing up with a large and loving immigrant family in New Jersey.

Fourth-grader Sarai is the oldest of three girls in a tightknit Latinx family (her mom was born in Peru, and her dad was born in Costa Rica). She is the epitome of positive thinking, with ambition to spare. When her beloved grandfather learns that the owner of the house he has been renting, and which he shares with his extended family, has decided to sell, Sarai is immediately concerned. Where will her abuelos, tíos, and primos live? What if they are no longer close by? Sarai’s optimism does not let her stay down for long, and she immediately hatches a plan to use her fledgling cupcake business to raise the money needed to buy the house. Little sisters making a mess of the kitchen cause some trouble, but basic economics presents insurmountable odds—still, the ending is undoubtedly happy all the same. Sarai’s neighborliness and strong family values may be aspirational for many in our contemporary society, but her contagious joy might just set readers on the road to remedy that. Though none of her plans ultimately succeed, she remains irrepressibly hopeful throughout; it’s an admirable hope that fuels hard work and ingenuity. Almeda’s illustrations depict Sarai and her family with brown skin and black hair.

A Pollyanna for the 21st century . (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23668-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape.

RAFI AND ROSI MUSIC!

From the Rafi and Rosi series

The fourth installment in Delacre’s early-reader series centers on the rich musical traditions of Puerto Rico, once again featuring sibling tree frogs Rafi and Rosi Coquí.

Readers learn along with Rafi and Rosi as they explore bomba, plena, and salsa in three chapters. A glossary at the beginning sets readers up well to understand the Spanish vocabulary, including accurate phoneticization for non-Spanish speakers. The stories focus on Rafi and Rosi’s relationship within a musical context. For example, in one chapter Rafi finds out that he attracts a larger audience playing his homemade güiro with Rosi’s help even though he initially excluded her: “Big brothers only.” Even when he makes mistakes, as the older brother, Rafi consoles Rosi when she is embarrassed or angry at him. In each instance, their shared joy for music and dance ultimately shines through any upsets—a valuable reflection of unity. Informational backmatter and author’s sources are extensive. Undoubtedly these will help teachers, librarians, and parents to develop Puerto Rican cultural programs, curriculum, or home activities to extend young readers’ learning. The inclusion of instructions to make one’s own homemade güiro is a thoughtful addition. The Spanish translation, also by Delacre and published simultaneously, will require a more advanced reader than the English one to recognize and comprehend contractions (“pa’bajo-pa-pa’rriba”) and relatively sophisticated vocabulary.

A welcome, well-researched reflection of cultural pride in the early-reader landscape. (Early reader. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89239-429-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An enjoyable, endearing collection.

TOO SMALL TOLA

A young girl learns that she doesn’t have to be big to make a difference.

Tola lives in Lagos, Nigeria, with her siblings—sister Moji and brother Dapo, who call her “Too Small Tola” because she is the smallest—under the care of their grandmother. Each of the three short chapters tells of Tola’s adventures while immersing readers in Lagos daily life. In Tola’s first adventure, Grandmommy chooses Tola to take shopping, causing Tola to panic as she worries she won’t be able to carry their purchases. After collecting everything from Grandmommy’s seemingly never-ending list, they make their way home, taking plenty of breaks that leave Tola’s siblings jealous. For her second adventure, she must collect water from the well near their building and then make it to school on time, but she must conquer a mean, older kid first. Tola’s final adventure occurs during a time of celebrations when Eid falls at the same time as Easter. Readers follow along as Tola takes on the challenge of measuring clients for Mr. Abdul—a tailor who lives in Tola’s building—after he breaks his leg. This collection of stories is perfect for transitioning readers, with its manageable chapters, clear, plain language, simple sentence structures, wry sense of humor, and realistic illustrations of the diverse Nigerian cast. While some elements may be unfamiliar to readers outside Tola’s culture, readers will find anchors in Tola’s relationships.

An enjoyable, endearing collection. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1127-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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