A great choice to introduce young readers to West Africa’s wonderful Anansesem storytelling tradition.

Kweku, nicknamed Anansi by his father, meets the famous trickster spider he’s named for.

Anansi, a young city-dwelling boy, flies overseas to Ghana with his parents and siblings to visit his grandmother. In Nana’s seaside community, Anansi climbs coconut trees, helps fishermen pull in their nets, and enjoys red-red (Ghanaian bean stew), his favorite food. One day, at the beach, Anansi meets the real Anansi the Spider, whom he’s heard so much about. The spider reveals to Anansi a golden pot that will magically fill itself with whatever the boy most desires if he utters a charm. When Anansi gives it a try, the pot immediately fills with red-red. The spider warns Anansi that “you must share what you love with those you love the most,” but the boy hides the pot and secretly binges on red-red for several days before learning a lesson about the importance of generosity. Selasi creatively reimagines the classic West African folktale of “Anansi and the Pot of Beans,” distinguishing this retelling from previous adaptations by putting a contemporary child at the center of the story. The characters have Ghanaian names, and both the text and illustrations include interesting cultural details—like the kaftans Nana wears and the Adinkra symbols scattered throughout the illustrations (the backmatter includes a symbol key)—making this a good experiential introduction to Ghanaian culture. Complementing the folklore-inspired text well is Fagborun’s brightly colored artwork that lends a folk-art sensibility.

A great choice to introduce young readers to West Africa’s wonderful Anansesem storytelling tradition. (author’s note, Ghanaian dishes) (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7440-4990-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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