Sensitive, restrained—but festive too…with a closing note that China has over 100 million migrant workers, many separated...

A NEW YEAR'S REUNION

A CHINESE STORY

Chinese New Year brings a young family joyously but all-too-briefly back together in this poignant import.

Little Maomao knows only that her father “builds big houses in faraway places” and comes home just for New Year. Though she hardly recognizes the shaggy figure at the door, by the time he’s given her and her mother gifts, gotten a haircut and a shave and made sticky rice balls (one with a lucky coin in the middle just for her) they’re an inseparable pair—repairing the windows and roof together and watching dragon dancers march past. The next day brings a round of play with friends in the snow, and the day after that Daddy packs up his rolling suitcase to leave again. In Zhu’s paintings Maomao looks a bit too young for lines like “Excellent! Mama never allows me up [on the roof] alone!” but simple patterns and bright red highlights give the inside and outside settings a particularly inviting look, and the artist captures the emotional backdrop with delicate clarity in her figures’ postures and expressions.

Sensitive, restrained—but festive too…with a closing note that China has over 100 million migrant workers, many separated from their families except during the holiday .(Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5881-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2018

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ENEMY PIE

Bland pictures and superficial presentation sink this problem-solver. Feeling slighted by new neighbor Jeremy, the aggrieved young narrator accepts his father’s offer to make an “enemy pie.” Dad insists on doing the baking, but tells the lad that the recipe also requires spending a day playing with the enemy—after which, predictably, the two lads sit down as newly minted friends for pie à la mode. Though the narrator speculates about the pie’s ingredients, the promisingly gross worm-and-weed dishes on the cover never materialize in the illustrations inside, nor are any of Jeremy’s supposed offenses depicted. Instead, King shows the boys in a series of conventional, static scenes, throwing water balloons at girls and other fun activities. Meanwhile, Dad’s fixed, knowing smile invites viewers to share the conceit—even though his naïve son never does catch on. And is Jeremy really so hostile? He displays so little individual character that it’s hard to get a read on him; he just seems to be going with the flow. Invite readers to order up a bowl of Betsy Everitt’s Mean Soup (1992) instead, or a slice of Margie Palatini’s Piggie Pie (1995). (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8118-2778-X

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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