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THE ELEPHANT WITH A KNOT IN HIS TRUNK

Beautiful, useful, and compassionate.

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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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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THE MINOTAUR AT CALLE LANZA

An intriguing but uneven family memoir and travelogue.

An author’s trip to Venice takes a distinctly Borgesian turn.

In November 2020, soccer club Venizia F.C. offered Nigerian American author Madu a writing residency as part of its plan “to turn the team into a global entity of fashion, culture, and sports.” Flying to Venice for the fellowship, he felt guilty about leaving his immigrant parents, who were shocked to learn upon moving to the U.S. years earlier that their Nigerian teaching certifications were invalid, forcing his father to work as a stocking clerk at Rite Aid to support the family. Madu’s experiences in Venice are incidental to what is primarily a story about his family, especially his strained relationship with his father, who was disappointed with many of his son’s choices. Unfortunately, the author’s seeming disinterest in Venice renders much of the narrative colorless. He says the trip across the Ponte della Libertà bridge was “magical,” but nothing he describes—the “endless water on both sides,” the nearby seagulls—is particularly remarkable. Little in the text conveys a sense of place or the unique character of his surroundings. Madu is at his best when he focuses on family dynamics and his observations that, in the largely deserted city, “I was one of the few Black people around.” He cites Borges, giving special note to the author’s “The House of Asterion,” in which the minotaur “explains his situation as a creature and as a creature within the labyrinth” of multiple mirrors. This notion leads to the Borgesian turn in the book’s second half, when, in an extended sequence, Madu imagines himself transformed into a minotaur, with “the head of a bull” and his body “larger, thicker, powerful but also cumbersome.” It’s an engaging passage, although stylistically out of keeping with much of what has come before.

An intriguing but uneven family memoir and travelogue.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781953368669

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Belt Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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