A culturally responsive picture-book critique of gender roles.

On Sundays, Varun’s grandfather takes Varun’s sister, Varsha, to dance lessons where she learns bharatanatyam, a South Asian dance style estimated to be 2,000 years old.

When Thatha invites Varun to come and watch the lesson, he doesn’t think that he’ll be interested. To Varun’s surprise, though, he finds the rhythm impossible to resist. Before long, he leaps to his feet and joins in with the other dancers. Dancing makes Varun feel wonderful—that is, until his sister tells him he has to stop because dancing is not for boys. Although Thatha objects, revealing that he used to be an accomplished dancer in India, Varun still feels uncomfortable. After all, if he did join his sister’s dance class, he would be the only boy. With a little help from Thatha, Varun musters up the courage to follow his dreams—and to prove that gender stereotypes are no match for the power of performance. This book’s charming protagonist and believable plot provide a wonderful opening for conversations about the dangers of strict gender constructs. The vibrant paintings take readers to a diverse U.S. city, cleverly incorporating details such as a Pride flag and a Black Lives Matter sign that establish a clear political tone. In this context, the author’s note disappoints, focusing on discrimination male dancers face instead of challenging the kind of toxic masculinity Varun overcomes in the story.

A culturally responsive picture-book critique of gender roles. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949528-90-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Yali Books

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016


From the Food Group series

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers.

A winning wheel of cheddar with braggadocio to match narrates a tale of comeuppance and redemption.

From humble beginnings among kitchen curds living “quiet lives of pasteurization,” the Big Cheese longs to be the best and builds success and renown based on proven skills and dependable results: “I stuck to the things I was good at.” When newcomer Wedge moves to the village of Curds-on-Whey, the Cheese’s star status wobbles and falls. Turns out that quiet, modest Wedge is also multitalented. At the annual Cheese-cathlon, Wedge bests six-time winner Cheese in every event, from the footrace and chess to hat making and bread buttering. A disappointed Cheese throws a full-blown tantrum before arriving at a moment of truth: Self-calming, conscious breathing permits deep relief that losing—even badly—does not result in disaster. A debrief with Wedge “that wasn’t all about me” leads to further realizations: Losing builds empathy for others; obsession with winning obscures “the joy of participating.” The chastened cheddar learns to reserve bragging for lifting up friends, because anyone can be the Big Cheese. More didactic and less pun-rich than previous entries in the Food Group series, this outing nevertheless couples a cheerful refrain with pithy life lessons that hit home. Oswald’s detailed, comical illustrations continue to provide laughs, including a spot with Cheese onstage doing a “CHED” talk.

From curds to riches, from meltdown to uplift—this multicourse romp delivers. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063329508

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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