SARAI AND THE MEANING OF AWESOME

From the Sarai series , Vol. 1

A Pollyanna for the 21st century

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 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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RAFI AND ROSI MUSIC!

From the Rafi and Rosi series

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

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 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

JUST THE RIGHT CAKE

A foodie’s delight, with a sweet message between the layers.

It’s all about the yum in this tale from Tosi, founder of Milk Bar, a chain of bakeries.

Now that his mom and dad are living apart, young Phil finds that his delectable double chocolate cake isn’t the same when he prepares it with just one parent at a time. Nor does making brownies with one and s’mores with the other quite butter the biscuit. His peanut butter cookie–making partner, Sammi, tells him that “every cake has a story. And sometimes stories change.” That sends him to the grocery store for inspiration and leads to a mouthwatering epiphany: “A Chocolate Brownie PB S’mores layer cake!” "New could be exciting and special,” enthuses the author before closing with a challenging but feasible recipe (with the suggestion to torch the top properly left for grown-up sous-chefs). Reinforcing the upbeat tone and positive outlook in this tale of family changes, Balsley’s cartoon illustrations depict a young patissier presenting the very picture of culinary self-confidence as he bustles about two kitchens while his parents look on affectionately and lend an occasional willing ear or hand. This one is best when dished up with sweets and a napkin, like all the better pastry-centered picture books. Phil and his father are tan-skinned, Mom is brown-skinned, and Sammi is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A foodie’s delight, with a sweet message between the layers. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780593110713

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books/Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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