SINGING WITH MOMMA LOU

Tamika decides to try to restore her grandmother’s memory in this realistic story about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease. At first, Tamika resents having to visit Momma Lou in the nursing home every Sunday. One night after a particularly difficult visit, Tamika’s father pulls out the family photo album. Cherished snapshots from Momma Lou’s full life marching for civil-rights causes, getting married in traditional African dress, and taking care of a young Tamika remind Tamika of “the days of secrets and dreams, when Momma Lou was her best friend in all the world,” and she realizes she owes it to Momma Lou to make the visits more meaningful. Tamika’s efforts to reconnect Momma Lou with her past by bringing photos and mementos to the nursing home sometimes work and sometimes don’t, reflecting the sad reality of the progression of Alzheimer’s. A major triumph occurs when Momma Lou is shown a picture of herself in jail, and begins to sing “We Shall Overcome,” just as she did on that long-ago day; but it is her last moment of lucidity. Eventually Momma Lou slips away, but not before her memories have taken root in Tamika’s heart. Soft-focus, acrylic illustrations convey the dedication and warmth of the family; in particular, Tamika’s facial expressions aptly express the progression of frustration, love, excitement, and nostalgia she feels as she comes to terms with Momma Lou’s illness. This worthy source for any family dealing with the anguish of Alzheimer’s provides assurance to children that their experience isn’t unique as well as a blueprint for a proactive approach even young children can undertake. (author’s note, list of Alzheimer’s Disease organizations) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58430-040-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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