An old tale is given fresh new life.

Following Magnolia Flower (2022), Kendi retells another work by Hurston, this time a tale of how butterflies were created, from her folktale anthology Mules and Men.

The Creator—a Black, childlike, winged person—stares upon a newly created Earth. Bored, the Creator begins to make flowers and plants, which grow every which way. However, before the Creator’s work is finished, the flowers complain of being lonely. So the Creator grabs their shears and snips pieces off everything—the sky, animals, plants, and more. As the scraps fly through the skies, the Creator calls them “flutter-bys,” but they are misheard, and the people refer to them as butterflies instead. And so we have butterflies, which come in various colors and sizes. Rendered in acrylic paint, pencil, pastel, and Adobe Photoshop, the artwork creates an eye-catching collage of images in every spread. Just as folktales are greatly exaggerated, so are Yangni’s brightly colored butterflies and flowers that flow throughout, similar to the tale’s narration. Kendi expertly distills this word-of-mouth tale for young readers with direct quotes from Hurston’s book and uses the African American vernacular, as Hurston did. His author’s note gives readers the backstory regarding how the tale was told to Hurston. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An old tale is given fresh new life. (Board book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-311158-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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