A glimpse into Soviet children’s-book illustration; likely of more interest to scholars than to children.

THE FIRE HORSE

Hot off the American presses comes this translated collection of three illustrated texts from the 1920s golden age of Soviet children’s-book publishing.

The titular text, by Mayakovsky, stands as the first chapter in this collection of tales, all translated by Ostashevsky. It tells the story of a little boy who wants a horse from a toyshop. The shop clerk tells him and his father, “No way, / We’re all out of horses today. / Still, / a horse of any color can / Be made by / a master artisan.” They then go to six different workers to get materials and specific expertise for building the toy horse. This story, like the other two in the book (Mandelstam’s “Two Trams” and Kharms’ “Play”), centers on themes of industry, modernity, and the dignity of work. In all cases, the art far outshines the text, which has a stilted sound, possibly due to poetics lost in translation. But pictures by Popova, Ender, and Konashevich, respectively, are wondrous to behold in their own right and as precursors to mid-20th-century Western picture-book art. Popova’s human figures are big, burly examples of Soviet manhood; their tools and the gathering team appear in brightly colored squares that offset their bulk. Ender’s gray, black, red, and blue illustrations are almost abstract in their depictions of the titular trams and their tracks. Konashevich’s figures are fluid and likely the most conventional-looking for modern American audiences.

A glimpse into Soviet children’s-book illustration; likely of more interest to scholars than to children. (Picture book. 6 & up)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68137-092-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him.

WHAT ABOUT WILL

What can a good kid do when his big brother starts being a problem?

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds, who is White and Puerto Rican, wants to get noticed for the right reasons: good grades, Little League, pulling weeds for Mr. Cobb next door. Seventeen-year-old Will used to be the best brother, but now he’s so angry. He’s played football since he was a little kid and has been tackled plenty; when he gets horrifically hurt in a JV game, it’s just one too many head injuries. It’s been a year and a half since Will’s traumatic brain injury, and he’s got a hair-trigger temper. He has chronic headaches, depression, and muscle spasms that prevent him from smiling. Trace knows it’s rotten for Will, but still, why did his awesome brother have to give up all his cool friends? Now he argues with their dad, hangs out with losers—and steals Trace’s stuff. At least Trace has a friend in Catalina Sánchez, the new girl on Little League. Her dad’s a retired major leaguer, and she has sibling problems too. Observations from Trace frame Cat as praiseworthy by virtue of her not being like the other girls, a mindset that conveys misogynistic overtones. The fears of stable, straight-arrow athlete Trace are clarified in lovely sparks of concrete poetry among Hopkins’ free verse, as he learns to tell adults when he sees his beloved brother acting dangerously.

Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him. (author's note) (Verse novel. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10864-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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