A charming ode to the lyricism of language.

THE MAGIC OF LETTERS

Journey through a land where words take flight and spark creativity.

A fantastical bespectacled rabbit is readers’ guide into a top hat and through Johnston and Minor’s wonderland of words as they celebrate the power of language to instruct, inspire, and delight children. The journey, which begins and ends on the dust cover, is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s classic topsy-turvy adventure, complete with a rabbit magician whose adeptness with wordplay prompts it to take a bow at the end. “Letters hold POWER,” it says, before going on to celebrate “giggling words like flibbertigibbet. Yummy words like QUESADILLA [and] bewitching words like enchanted.” Put together, “they say what you need to tell somebody. ‘The flibbertigibbet ate an enchanted quesadilla,’ ” for instance. The illustrations, which range from a scene done in a collage style incorporating cutout words to a blue, fairy-filled dreamscape, capture the sense of wonder that the story wishes to covey. The design makes clever use of the double-page spread to convey a child’s joy at recognizing their name in print and the power of words to literally make imaginations soar. Given the sophistication of some of the words in the story, it is best read with slightly older kindergarteners. While the rabbit is firmly established in the narrative, the two children, one black and one white, who occasionally appear in the illustrations feel less connected to the text.

A charming ode to the lyricism of language. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4159-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era.

I AM RUBY BRIDGES

The New Orleans school child who famously broke the color line in 1960 while surrounded by federal marshals describes the early days of her experience from a 6-year-old’s perspective.

Bridges told her tale to younger children in 2009’s Ruby Bridges Goes to School, but here the sensibility is more personal, and the sometimes-shocking historical photos have been replaced by uplifting painted scenes. “I didn’t find out what being ‘the first’ really meant until the day I arrived at this new school,” she writes. Unfrightened by the crowd of “screaming white people” that greets her at the school’s door (she thinks it’s like Mardi Gras) but surprised to find herself the only child in her classroom, and even the entire building, she gradually realizes the significance of her act as (in Smith’s illustration) she compares a small personal photo to the all-White class photos posted on a bulletin board and sees the difference. As she reflects on her new understanding, symbolic scenes first depict other dark-skinned children marching into classes in her wake to friendly greetings from lighter-skinned classmates (“School is just school,” she sensibly concludes, “and kids are just kids”) and finally an image of the bright-eyed icon posed next to a soaring bridge of reconciliation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A unique angle on a watershed moment in the civil rights era. (author and illustrator notes, glossary) (Autobiographical picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75388-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.

A WORLD TOGETHER

Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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