An intriguing examination of the inside story of one of New York City’s most important and beloved monuments.

ME AND MOMMA AND BIG JOHN

A son tells of his mother’s new job cutting stone for “Big John,” New York City’s yet-unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

He focuses his mother’s experiences at the cathedral through his own lens: She comes home covered in gray dust after daily labor on a single stone. Is his mother’s work like an artist’s, whose pictures hang in the museum? When the family visits Big John’s stone yard and soaring interiors, he understands that her contribution—painstakingly crafted, yet so small—will take its place “high above the people, Momma’s stone touching the sky.” Drawing from historical details about a 25-year apprenticeship program begun in 1982, Rockliff’s lyrical text celebrates collaboration and communion, whether as voices rising in a cathedral hymn or among the skilled workers who labored over more than a century. Low (Old Penn Station, 2007) renders many gorgeous digital spreads, articulating the extraordinary light and deep shadows within and outside the architecturally splendid cathedral. Combining the look of thick, fuzzy-edged pastel on paper with gouache on textured board, the illustrations are less successful in the figurative depictions. Awkwardly drawn shoes, feet and legs, along with some variation in the appearance of the daughter, are minor distractions from the overall strong visual appeal.

An intriguing examination of the inside story of one of New York City’s most important and beloved monuments. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4359-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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