A picture book that at least helps fill the time.

JUST HELP!

HOW TO BUILD A BETTER WORLD

Young readers learn the value of being helpful.

Every morning, while Sonia (a character who is clearly a young version of Sotomayor herself) eats breakfast, her mother, a nurse, asks “How will you help today?” Sonia, who wants to assist in making her community better and safer, always does her best to have a good answer for Mami. Sonia decides to volunteer to make care packages for American soldiers. She also helps other kids at her school with their various service projects. Readers see how children and adults in Sonia’s neighborhood work together to recycle, clean up a park, donate items to a children’s hospital, and mobilize voters on Election Day. Written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and inspired by her own childhood, this picture book depicting a cooperative, socially conscious, multicultural neighborhood is nice enough but nothing more. The text is perfectly inoffensive, and the artwork is pleasant, but the narrative never truly inspires or moves beyond a preachy approach that kids will quickly sniff out as patronizing. Well-meaning Democratic voters will purchase this for the children in their lives, who will smile appreciatively before eventually depositing the book in their local Little Free Library six months later. Sonia and Mami are Latinx with light brown skin. Secondary characters are diverse racially and agewise and include wheelchair users and a hijabi girl. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A picture book that at least helps fill the time. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-20626-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless.

ELEPHANT IN THE DARK

An Iranian-American author recasts an anecdote from the Persian poet Rumi, itself based on a far older tale about perceiving parts of a truth rather than its whole.

Javaherbin adds characters and plot to the bare-bones original and reduces Rumi’s lengthy mystical exegesis to a line. So curious are local villagers about the strange beast Ahmad the merchant has brought from India that they sneak into the dark barn where the creature is kept. Each returns with a different impression: one trips over the animal’s nose and announces that it’s like a snake, but it is more like a tree to one who feels its leg, and so on. Their squabble is so intense that they don’t even notice when Ahmad arrives to lead the elephant out to the river—leaving each with “only a small piece of the truth.” Yelchin outfits the villagers in curly-toed slippers and loose, brightly patterned caftans. He also puts a nifty spin on the story by leaving the adults to argue obliviously but surrounding the elephant at the wordless end with smiling, plainly clearer-eyed children. Though the language is bland, the wildly gesticulating figures in the illustrations add a theatrical element, and the episode makes its points in a forthright way. An excellent source note traces the familiar tale back to its earliest versions.

Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-63670-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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