RAFFI'S NEW FRIEND

This early chapter book, translated from the French, tackles some weighty subjects and, sadly, is all but drowned by them. Raffi and Carlito set out to befriend a new girl, Fatima, whose headscarf has made her the target of the school bullies—the same bullies who taunt Raffi because he uses crutches due to his sickle-cell anemia. When Raffi asks his parents why Arab girls wear headscarves, they warn him not to “confuse Arab and Muslim.” When a neighbor reveals that he and his wife avoid the new family, Carlito asks Raffi why this is. Raffi explains clearly but with no regard to natural-sounding dialogue: “Oh, that’s just the way the Raycrofts are. They’re always afraid of people they don’t know. It’s called prejudice. They were afraid of us at the beginning, because we’re black.” Once the two boys find Fatima, they discover that she has bigger problems than the school bullies. It seems her father returned to the old country to pick up Fatima’s grandmother just as the country had broken into war, and Fatima and her mother are sick with worry as they await his return. This overly ambitious title could definitely spark discussion about bullying, violence, prejudice and war, but that presumes that someone can convince children to read it first. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88780-933-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Formac

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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