ALI AND THE MAGIC STEW

Oppenheim (Yanni Rubbish, 1999, etc.) employs familiar motifs to craft a story with the feel of a folktale. Ali ibn Ali is the much-loved but spoiled son of kind, doting parents. His haughty disregard for others, particularly the beggar at the gate of his palace, causes his mother to remark, “A true Muslim gives to the poor, the crippled, the homeless, the hungry.” When Ali’s father becomes mysteriously and gravely ill, Ali’s only hope to save him, according to the beggar, is to discard his expensive clothes, take up a beggar’s bowl, and beg for money to buy the ingredients for a stew that will heal his father. Ali finds that begging is a humiliating and humbling experience. But the advice proves correct: the magic remedy cures his father, Ali learns the healing power of kindness, and the archetypal giver of wisdom melts into the night sky. With opulent, stylized illustrations that have the flavor of the Thousand and One Nights, this tale is ultimately as satisfying as Ali’s stew. And the references to Allah may stimulate conversation. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56397-869-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

A BIKE LIKE SERGIO'S

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on...

Continuing from their acclaimed Those Shoes (2007), Boelts and Jones entwine conversations on money, motives, and morality.

This second collaboration between author and illustrator is set within an urban multicultural streetscape, where brown-skinned protagonist Ruben wishes for a bike like his friend Sergio’s. He wishes, but Ruben knows too well the pressure his family feels to prioritize the essentials. While Sergio buys a pack of football cards from Sonny’s Grocery, Ruben must buy the bread his mom wants. A familiar lady drops what Ruben believes to be a $1 bill, but picking it up, to his shock, he discovers $100! Is this Ruben’s chance to get himself the bike of his dreams? In a fateful twist, Ruben loses track of the C-note and is sent into a panic. After finally finding it nestled deep in a backpack pocket, he comes to a sense of moral clarity: “I remember how it was for me when that money that was hers—then mine—was gone.” When he returns the bill to her, the lady offers Ruben her blessing, leaving him with double-dipped emotions, “happy and mixed up, full and empty.” Readers will be pleased that there’s no reward for Ruben’s choice of integrity beyond the priceless love and warmth of a family’s care and pride.

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on children. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6649-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON A GRAY DAY

Quietly contemplative and thoroughly lovely.

A child finds adventure and a change of perspective on a dreary day.

Clouds cover everything in a palette of unending gray, creating a sense of ennui and gloom. A child stands alone, head down, feeling as gray as the day, and decides to ride through town on an old bike. Pops of color throughout the grayscale illustrations go unnoticed—there are yellow leaves scattered about, and the parking lot is filled with bright yellow buses, but this child, who has skin the grayish white of the page, sees only the empty playground, creaky swings, a sad merry-go-round, and lonely seesaws. But look—there’s a narrow winding path just beyond the fence, something to explore. There are things to be noticed, leaves to be crunched, and discoveries to be made. Imagination takes over, along with senses of wonderment and calm, as the child watches a large blue bird fly over the area. The ride home is quite different, joyful and filled with color previously ignored, reaffirming the change in the rider’s outlook. The descriptive, spare text filled with imagery and onomatopoeia is well aligned with well-rendered art highlighting all the colors that brighten the not-so-gray day and allowing readers to see what the protagonist struggles to understand, that “anything can happen…on a gray day.” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Quietly contemplative and thoroughly lovely. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781797210896

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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