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JUST ONE ITSY BITSY LITTLE BITE / SÓLO UN MORDADITA CHIQUITITA

Joaquín and his mother are about to eat some freshly baked pan de muerto when a knock on the door interrupts them. A hungry-looking skeleton in a mariachi outfit is willing to exchange a song for a bite of their Day of the Dead bread.

After some misgivings, the boy and his mother sit back to enjoy the song—but they’ve forgotten the gaping door. Two more skeletons with accordions stroll in, then three guitarists, and soon the tabletop is covered with 15 performing skeletons eager for a taste of the special treat. When the satisfied skeletal guests wave goodbye, not a single crumb is left. Undaunted, Mom removes two more loaves from the oven and Joaquín quickly shuts the door. Garza’s Day of the Dead celebration needlessly bogs down once the quickly multiplying skeletons start appearing. The refrain, “just one itsy bitsy little bite,” is repeated three times (with slight variation) on each page and always is followed by Mom’s halfhearted rejoinder, “That sounds fair.” An additional distraction is the culturally incongruous substitution of Spanish flamenco dancers for Mexican folklórico dancers among the bony party crashers. De Vita’s stiff watercolor scenes are framed by colorful borders, and the English and Spanish texts are separated by a line of whimsical images. The effectiveness of this bilingual counting book is further marred by its failure to highlight numbers within the text and the absence of any corresponding numerals.

Give this one a miss. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55885-872-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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