One family’s journey from Mississippi to Chicago in 1936, as recalled by the now-grown daughter, interweaves the history of the Great Migration and African-American blues heritage.

Cassie’s narrative begins as the family loads the car with all they own. Uncle Vernon’s up front with Daddy and Mama, and Cassie and two brothers ride in back, Daddy’s acoustic-guitar case across their laps. The family settles on Chicago’s South Side; the men work in the stockyards and play the blues every chance they get. Cassie’s narration seesaws between family scenes and insertions that feel contrived: a definition of the blues, particular blues lyrics, and name-dropped musicians. Oddest is a double-page spread that introduces musician Robert Johnson’s legendary devil’s bargain at a crossroads—without context. “Sometimes…I would fall asleep with the sound of the music in my ears, dreaming about Robert Johnson waiting at the crossroads for the devil to come.” The song is quoted above a sleeping Cassie. Opposite, a horned devil looms huge above Johnson in a red sky. Children not frightened by the image will surely be bewildered. The digital paintings resemble woodcuts. Garland’s signature use of squat, foreshortened figures effectively trivializes the adults, especially when contrasted with depictions of famous blues players, seemingly distilled from photos. In a lengthy author’s note, Garland provides historical background but conflates personal reminiscences with the musical history and celebrates the white rockers who appropriated the blues.

Skip. (song credits, map, thumbnail biographies) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88448-588-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Perhaps this series fills a reading niche, but this underwhelming third book in the series should be its last


From the Shai & Emmie series

A book about rescuing in which no rescue happens.

Shai, an African-American girl, and her white “bestie-best friend,” Emmie, play in the school orchestra at Sweet Auburn School for the Performing Arts. One afternoon, Shai spots a brown-and-white critter in her family’s backyard garden and assumes it’s a stray cat. She draws a picture of it and creates posters to figure out which neighbor has lost the cat. When Shai lures the animal with food, she sees that it’s not a cat but a rabbit, but being a city kid, she doesn’t understand that it’s wild. After Shai and Emmie capture it in a pet carrier, Shai’s veterinarian mother explains that the rabbit should live wild in the city. Shai then finds a better pet solution, even though their household already has eight pets. Besides its child-star author and the portrayal of a positive cross-racial friendship, this novel has little to recommend it. The art may give readers a point of reference for some scenes, but it adds little to the story. Furthermore, though children might appreciate Shai’s made-up words and phrases (“hunormous,” “sleepifying,” “lickety-clean,” “amazetastic”), this book’s readers, who are likely new to chapter books, may find them difficult to decipher.

Perhaps this series fills a reading niche, but this underwhelming third book in the series should be its last . (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5888-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A flight of fancy, verbally and visually spare, that any would-be “star” will gladly take.


A child transforms her bedroom into the big top.

The book opens with a couple of introductory views of an ordinary room featuring a bed, “a leotard / socks / and a girl.” Following this, a whirl of sheets opens the show. Changing in tandem, the narrative’s initial, hair-fine typeface turns to big, florid circus-poster type as the performance begins. Illustrations drawn in simple outlines of orange crayon burgeon into colorful scenes of awe-inspiring leaps, swoops and circus acrobatics on a trapeze or atop an elephant, a lion and other stuffed animals that have become real. Having thoroughly demonstrated that she’s “daring and /dazzling / and Oh! so / dramatic,” the young performer finally snuggles down for the night, secure in the knowledge that she is “star / of the show.” Thinly applied colors and broad areas of white space give Pernice’s pictures and the imaginary playscape they depict a diaphanous look that may seem washed-out to some viewers—and, to others, appropriately dreamlike.

A flight of fancy, verbally and visually spare, that any would-be “star” will gladly take. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927018-36-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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