Nevertheless, it is a rather beautiful, quiet tale and smells of the salt sea.

THE LIGHTHOUSE OF SOULS

This Spanish import opens vertically, emphasizing the height of the titular lighthouse with each double-page spread.

For Leo’s ninth birthday, his grandfather takes him to the lighthouse he has taken care of for many years, but now it no longer serves ships and seafarers. His grandpa has a different set of duties now. First he makes a shadow swallow with his hands and the lighthouse beam. Then he flashes the light to send a Morse code message. Finally, the grandfather wafts out clouds of smoke from his pipe and uses the light as a gigantic movie projector with the smoke as a screen. He tells Leo that he does these tasks to cheer those who are sad, lonely, or worried, like the fishermen’s wives or a lone retired seaman—and they are now Leo’s responsibility. The old man marks the moment by placing his own sailor’s cap on Leo’s head. The images, done in mothlike colors, pale washes of green and brown, are gentle and slightly mysterious, reflecting the shimmer of magical realism that overlays the text. There’s a certain didacticism that threatens to overtake the story, and a small but jarring note sounds when the grandfather’s beard is described as long though depicted as quite short in the pictures.

Nevertheless, it is a rather beautiful, quiet tale and smells of the salt sea. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-84-16147-30-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America.

WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

A Black man teaches two Black children about their roots.

“Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?” These questions open the book as a man leads an unnamed boy and girl, presumably his children, into “Remembrance Park,” where they gaze up at Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams, and Martin Luther King Jr., who appear as cloudy apparitions in the sky. This imagery gives the misleading impression that Abrams, very much alive, is in heaven with the other figures, who are all deceased. Later on in the story, another potentially delusive illustration shows the main characters visiting a Mount Rushmore–like monument showcasing Kamala Harris alongside departed Black icons. After highlighting inspirational individuals who are not descended from people enslaved in the United States, the illustrations paradoxically depict enslaved Black Americans working in cotton fields. The portrayal of slavery is benevolent, and the images of civil rights marches and sit-ins likewise lack the necessary emotional depth. The text’s statement that “you are from the country where time moves with ease and where kindness is cherished” erases centuries of African American struggle in the face of racist violence and systemic exclusion. The book tries to instill pride in African Americans, who continue to struggle with a lack of shared identity or common experience; ultimately, it stumbles in its messaging and attempts to turn an extremely complicated, sometimes controversial topic into a warm and fuzzy picture book. All characters are Black.

A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308285-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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