(Picture book/biography. 5-10)

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THE BOY WHO ASKED WHY

THE STORY OF BHIMRAO AMBEDKAR

This Indian import traces the life and work of the social reformer Bhimrao “Bhim” Ambedkar as he fought for the rights of lower-caste people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Even as a child, Bhim is aware that the world he lives in is “like a ladder” and that he (like the other people in his caste) occupies the lowest rung. Bhim is considered an “Untouchable”; this means that they cannot eat with people from higher castes, drink from the same wells, swim in the same ponds, or even be touched. Despite the numerous obstacles placed in his path, Bhim studies hard and wins a scholarship to a school in the United States. He also studies law in London and, upon his return, fights for the basic human rights of his people. The picture book concludes with a timeline of Ambedkar’s life and a brief explanation of caste, which clarifies that “practicing untouchability is illegal” and that those formerly called Untouchables are today called Dalits. Gade’s brushy watercolors brim with energy and even humor. Rajendran’s text and Gade’s depiction of culturally familiar images, however, seem aimed primarily at an Indian audience living in India, and North American audiences unfamiliar with the context will need some help. They may also be struck at the strong implication that social inequalities exist only in India.

(Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995476-0-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kitaabworld

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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This ambitious introduction to an important concept tries too hard to pigeonhole people, places, and things

NOUNS SAY "WHAT'S THAT?"

From the Word Adventures: Parts of Speech series

Anthropomorphized representations of a person, a place, and a thing introduce readers to nouns.

The protagonists are Person, a green, hairy, Cousin Itt–looking blob; Place, a round, blue, globe-ish being (stereotypically implied female by eyelashes and round pigtails); and Thing, a pink cloud with limbs, a porkpie hat, and red glasses. They first introduce the word “noun” and then start pointing out the nouns that fall under each of their categories. In their speech balloons, these vocabulary words are set in type that corresponds to the speaker’s color: “Each wheel is a thing noun,” says Thing, and “wheel” is set in red. Readers join the three as they visit a museum, pointing out the nouns they see along the way and introducing proper and collective nouns and ways to make nouns plural. Confusingly, though, Person labels the “bus driver” a “person noun” on one page, but two spreads later, Thing says “Abdar is a guard. Mrs. Mooney is a ticket taker. Their jobs are things that are also nouns.” Similarly, a group of athletes is a person noun—“team”—but “flock” and “pack” are things. Lowen’s digital illustrations portray a huge variety of people who display many skin and hair colors, differing abilities, and even religious and/or cultural markers (though no one is overweight). Backmatter includes a summary of noun facts, a glossary, an index (not seen), critical-thinking questions, and a list of further reading. Books on seven other parts of speech release simultaneously.

This ambitious introduction to an important concept tries too hard to pigeonhole people, places, and things . (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5158-4058-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A lavishly illustrated art book with a self-indulgent purpose that may appeal to adults but misses the mark for children’s...

BRER RABBIT RETOLD

A successful reclamation project—or one that adds to an already-problematic literary history?

Flowers identifies Joel Chandler Harris’ Brer Rabbit stories—tales collected from slaves on a Georgia plantation—as his source material. Harris sought to justify slavery as beneficial to both masters and (contented) slaves, making the stories “narrative minstrelsy.” Flowers writes that as Harris took the slaves’ stories “for his purposes, I’m taking them back for mine.” Throughout this anthology of cultural, visual, and linguistic juxtapositions, readers must wonder what, exactly, is Flowers’ purpose and intended audience for this book? In the 21 tales—some familiar, some less so—the language echoes Black English Vernacular, though inconsistently, while the art, which Indian artist Chitara created in red, black, and white, seems to belong in some other story. Given the histories of colonialism in India and slavery in America, merging these two cultures could create some productive synergy. But due to linguistic inconsistencies and because many of the musical elements—sung or chanted by Flowers on the accompanying CD—translate poorly into text, this mashup results in more confusion than cross-cultural understanding. Though beautiful, Chitara’s art features animals in static poses, some of which are so stylized that young readers may have difficulty using them to make sense of the stories.

A lavishly illustrated art book with a self-indulgent purpose that may appeal to adults but misses the mark for children’s literature. (Picture book/folk tales. 5-10, adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-93-83145-46-1

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Tara Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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