A resonant, beautifully rendered testament to life and renewal.

THIS VERY TREE

A STORY OF 9/11, RESILIENCE, AND REGROWTH

The inspiring true story of a tree’s regrowth literally from ashes.

Dubbed the “Survivor Tree,” a Callery pear tree that once stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center narrates, in first person, present tense, this moving tale of life before and after the horrors of 9/11. The tree was proud of its “job”—offering shade and a nesting spot for birds and serving as an early harbinger of spring. Then the unimaginable occurred. The tree was eventually discovered, seemingly lifeless, beneath mounds of rubble and removed to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for rehabilitation. Miraculously, it flourished, and, after nine years, was returned to a newly rebuilt plaza, where it stands today, a beacon of renewed hope. The simple, quietly touching text focuses on the tree as a symbol of regeneration rather than devastation. The splendid illustrations include several spreads that depict, in a stark yet nonfrightening manner, scenes of chaotic destruction. Many also highlight vertical lines and aerial perspectives, prompting viewers to focus attention upward, aptly symbolizing soaring architecture and the tree’s growth and also helping readers understand the rise of hope and spirits in the wake of tragedy. Additionally, the illustrations’ delicate lines and muted palette have a freshness and airiness that suits the theme of life’s rebirth, echoed in the tree’s final reassurance that “spring will come.” People are portrayed diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, and physical ability. A heartfelt author’s note and historical material conclude the book. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 77.8% of actual size.)

A resonant, beautifully rendered testament to life and renewal. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-78850-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.

SUPERHEROES ARE EVERYWHERE

The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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