Wonderfully entertaining and inspiring.

SMALL ROOM, BIG DREAMS

THE JOURNEY OF JULIÁN AND JOAQUIN CASTRO

Before they were twins in the political arena, Julián and Joaquin Castro were kids whose mother and grandmother sowed the seeds of their big dreams.

This biographical narration of their early years traces a natural path through the seemingly inevitable political journey of the Castro brothers, who channeled their competitive personalities (challenging each other in both tennis and student senate elections) into public service and the betterment of their own community. They are seen as following the example set by the two women who came before them: their maternal grandmother, Victoriana—who crossed the border at 7 and then dropped out of school in third grade but nevertheless valued education as a means to succeed—and their single mother, Rosie, who knew she needed a seat at the decision-making table and fought to get it, breaking glass ceilings for both women and Mexican Americans. Brown includes important context on migration, the often forgotten segregation targeting Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking populations, and the poor city planning that often affects marginalized communities. Ortega complements the narrative with details in the illustrations that emphasize the struggles that the Castro family overcame to achieve their successes, beginning in the small room the twins shared with their grandmother. Some Spanish is naturally introduced in the text and supported by context clues, and a glossary in the backmatter provides translations. A Spanish edition publishes simultaneously. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 43.2% of actual size.)

Wonderfully entertaining and inspiring. (author’s note, sources) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298573-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A delightful story of love and hope.

OUR SUBWAY BABY

Families are formed everywhere—including large metropolitan mass-transit systems!

Baby Kevin, initially known as “Danny ACE Doe,” was found in the New York City’s 14th Street subway station, which serves the A-C-E lines, by one of his future fathers, Danny. Kevin’s other father, Pete (author Mercurio), serves as the narrator, explaining how the two men came to add the newborn to their family. Readers are given an abridged version of the story from Danny and Pete’s point of view as they work to formally adopt Kevin and bring him home in time for Christmas. The story excels at highlighting the determination of loving fathers while still including realistic moments of hesitation, doubt, and fear that occur for new and soon-to-be parents. The language is mindful of its audience (for example using “piggy banks” instead of “bank accounts” to discuss finances) while never patronizing young readers. Espinosa’s posterlike artwork—which presents the cleanest New York readers are ever likely to see—extends the text and makes use of unexpected angles to heighten emotional scenes and moments of urgency. The diversity of skin tones, ages, and faces (Danny and Pete both present white, and Kevin has light brown skin) befits the Big Apple. Family snapshots and a closing author’s note emphasize that the most important thing in any family is love. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 43% of actual size.)

A delightful story of love and hope. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42754-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter

MALALA'S MAGIC PENCIL

The latest of many picture books about the young heroine from Pakistan, this one is narrated by Malala herself, with a frame that is accessible to young readers.

Malala introduces her story using a television show she used to watch about a boy with a magic pencil that he used to get himself and his friends out of trouble. Readers can easily follow Malala through her own discovery of troubles in her beloved home village, such as other children not attending school and soldiers taking over the village. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations give a strong sense of setting, while gold ink designs overlay Malala’s hopes onto her often dreary reality. The story makes clear Malala’s motivations for taking up the pen to tell the world about the hardships in her village and only alludes to the attempt on her life, with a black page (“the dangerous men tried to silence me. / But they failed”) and a hospital bracelet on her wrist the only hints of the harm that came to her. Crowds with signs join her call before she is shown giving her famous speech before the United Nations. Toward the end of the book, adult readers may need to help children understand Malala’s “work,” but the message of holding fast to courage and working together is powerful and clear.

An inspiring introduction to the young Nobel Peace Prize winner and a useful conversation starter . (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31957-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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