Beautiful, useful, and compassionate.

THE ELEPHANT WITH A KNOT IN HIS TRUNK

A young elephant bullied for his congenital abnormality faces an ethical dilemma about rescuing his tormentor in this children’s picture book.

When Kofi, an elephant, is born, he has a knot in his trunk that makes ordinary tasks, such as drinking or trumpeting, difficult. Other elephants tease him, especially mean Big Ebo. Kofi’s parents take him to see “a special doctor” for an operation. Afterward, his trunk has a curl in it, but it works. One day, during rainy season, he sees Big Ebo stuck in the swirling river, and Kofi decides to pull him out. As Kofi later tells his grandchildren, “that’s when I knew: I was going to be all right.” A guide for parents and teachers is included. Patz (co-author, with Susan L. Roth: Babies Can’t Eat Kimchi!, 2007, etc.) and debut co-author Sheer, an orthodontist who volunteers with Operation Smile to fix cleft palates and similar problems, present the challenges of physical difference in an understandable way for kids. They acknowledge the hardships but also show supportive parents. Kofi’s trunk realistically looks odd post-surgery, but the focus on how well it now functions is helpful. Perhaps Kofi shouldn’t have to prove he’s a hero to feel good about himself, but the book’s message that life goes on is encouraging. Patz’s lovely watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are wonderfully expressive.

Beautiful, useful, and compassionate.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5456-1796-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Barton Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2018

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A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed.

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CRYING IN H MART

A MEMOIR

A poignant memoir about a mother’s love as told through Korean food.

Losing a parent is one thing, but to also lose direct ties to one’s culture in the process is its own tragedy. In this expansion of her popular 2018 New Yorker essay, Zauner, best known as the founder of indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, grapples with what it means to be severed from her Korean heritage following her mother’s battle with cancer. In an attempt to honor and remember her umma, the author sought to replicate the flavors of her upbringing. Throughout, the author delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and her storytelling is fluid, honest, and intimate. Aptly, Zauner frames her story amid the aisles of H Mart, a place many Asian Americans will recognize, a setting that allows the author to situate her personal story as part of a broader conversation about diasporic culture, a powerful force that eludes ownership. The memoir will feel familiar to children of immigrants, whose complicated relationships to family are often paralleled by equally strenuous relationships with their food. It will also resonate with a larger audience due to the author’s validation of the different ways that parents can show their love—if not verbally, then certainly through their ability to nourish. “I wanted to embody a physical warning—that if she began to disappear, I would disappear too,” writes Zauner as she discusses the deterioration of her mother’s health, when both stopped eating. When a loved one dies, we search all of our senses for signs of their presence. Zauner’s ability to let us in through taste makes her book stand out from others with similar themes. She makes us feel like we are in her mother’s kitchen, singing her praises.

A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65774-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

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THE BEST OF ME

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.

It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.

One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-62824-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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