Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity.

I AM GANDHI

From the Ordinary People Change the World series

Gandhi, the guru of nonviolence, becomes the latest addition to Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series.

After describing Gandhi’s early childhood experiences, the book dives into the racism he experienced in South Africa, the development of his philosophy of “Satyagraha,” or “Truth-Force,” and his critical role in the Indian independence movement. It ends with a brief timeline of Gandhi’s life, some photographs, and suggestions for further reading. Similar to other books in the series, child Gandhi is depicted as an old man, which is quite confusing. This is particularly an issue for Gandhi as he only adopted the dhoti he wears throughout this book in his late 40s while protesting against the British. There are also many instances of cultural insensitivity throughout the book. Crucially, Meltzer distorts Gandhi’s original quote “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” as “I will shake the world.” Gandhi was not known as one to take credit for his successes, much less to claim he could shake the world. Another example of misrepresentation is the narration of an incident in which Gandhi refused to copy from another child despite his teacher’s demand that he do so. The text is inaccurate and omits to mention that the refusal by Gandhi was during an exam. Moreover, the illustration depicts the teacher as an Indian in the act of putting his sandaled foot on the book, which goes against a deep-rooted Indian tradition of respect for books; as Gandhi recorded the story, the teacher had the English name of Mr. Giles and used his boot to prod Gandhi.

Only barely informative and severely lacking in authenticity. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2870-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president.

HONEY, THE DOG WHO SAVED ABE LINCOLN

A slice of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood life is explored through a fictionalized anecdote about his dog Honey.

When 7-year-old Abe rescues a golden-brown dog with a broken leg, he takes the pup home to the Lincolns’ cabin in Knob Creek, Kentucky. Honey follows Abe everywhere, including trailing after his owner into a deep cave. When Abe gets stuck between rocks, Honey goes for help and leads a search party back to the trapped boy for a dramatic rescue. The source for this story was a book incorporating the memories of Abe’s boyhood friend, explained in an author’s note. The well-paced text includes invented dialogue attributed to Abe and his parents. Abe’s older sister, Sarah, is not mentioned in the text and is shown in the illustrations as a little girl younger than Abe. All the characters present white save for one black man in the rescue crew. An oversized format and multiple double-page spreads provide plenty of space for cartoon-style illustrations of the Lincoln cabin, the surrounding countryside, and the spooky cave where Abe was trapped. This story focuses on the incident in the cave and Abe’s rescue; a more complete look at Lincoln’s life is included in an appended timeline and the author’s note, both of which include references to Lincoln’s kindness to animals and to other pets he owned.

This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269900-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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