The sea, with equal parts danger and thrill, makes an exciting training ground for a young haenyeo diver.

THE OCEAN CALLS

As the granddaughter of a haenyeo diver, young Dayeon yearns to learn this honorable trade from her grandmother.

On Jeju Island, at the southern end of the Korean peninsula, there lives a community of women called haenyeo who dive up to 30 meters underwater to gather shellfish. Without using any oxygen masks, the haenyeo divers harvest abalone, octopuses, and sea urchins by hand. The tradition is considered an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and the women who do this work are described as “indigenous marine biologists.” Many of them are over 70 years old. Dayeon understands the dangers involved with diving. “What if I can’t breathe? What if a shark comes? What if I can’t escape?” The familial determination that has been handed down along with diving skills helps her relax and reach the treasures at the bottom of the sea. The vibrant illustrations in cool, deep blue hues, punctuated by ochers and brick reds, capture the beauty of the natural world and lift the work up to near mythic proportions, befitting Dayeon’s perception that they are mermaids. The captivating endnotes provide more information on the tradition, with mesmerizing quotes from actual divers. In Cho and Snow’s celebration of this fascinating tradition, the risks and rewards are given only to the worthy—which takes practice, courage, and a grandmother’s love.

The sea, with equal parts danger and thrill, makes an exciting training ground for a young haenyeo diver. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1486-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

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EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80.5% of actual size.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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