An amusing educational story to help kids see the Land of the Rising Sun.

Shelly's World! Goes to Japan

An imaginative fourth-grader dreams of flying a plane to Japan with her family, while the family dog has his own secret adventures abroad.

Shelly Gee, an astute young girl at the prestigious Young Achievers Academy, daydreams of becoming a pilot and flying around the world. When her mother and sister suggest that the family travel during their two-week holiday, Shelly is ecstatic. Upon Shelly’s eager proposal, the family decides on Japan as their destination, and they begin preparations for their trip by visiting a local travel agent. Shelly pours over literature about Japan’s food, monetary system, culture and traditions. Meanwhile, Snickers, the family dog, plots how he’ll stow away on the trip. That night, Shelly dreams of flying the family first class to Japan. When they arrive, the family learns about local culture and customs from their friendly guide, Mr. Suzuki, and they partake in various tourist activities including visiting Mount Fuji, visiting the pearl museum and riding the famous bullet train. Gaitlin’s colorful descriptions will help young readers feel that they’re part of the family’s educational journey and Snickers’ own mischievous adventures, unbeknownst to the rest of the family. Shelly’s entertaining, imaginative travels are further enhanced by Reid’s simple, black-and-white illustrations, which appear every three pages or so; more regular placement of the illustrations alongside Gatlin’s clear, easily understandable writing would have aided a beginning reader’s comprehension of the text. Chapters are long enough to be engaging but short enough for young readers to keep up, and Snickers’ storyline will certainly bring the laughs.

An amusing educational story to help kids see the Land of the Rising Sun.

Pub Date: March 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985108847

Page Count: 112

Publisher: In The Beginning

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2013

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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