Flood’s closing tribute to the hogan’s “beautiful structure” and central role in Navajo life is moving but not reflected in...

THE HOGAN THAT GREAT-GRANDFATHER BUILT

Not rigidly cumulative but with echoes of “The House That Jack Built,” a reverent, measured portrait of a Navajo family in a traditional dwelling.

Readers hoping for more details about how a hogan is constructed beyond being repeatedly told that Great-Grandfather Jack built it “with his hands / out of earth, water, and trees” will have only Yazzie’s gloomy, indistinct views of a windowless log structure in a desolate setting to go on. Following a retrospective view of a glum-looking Jack posing with an axe, each living member of the young narrator’s family comes into view (there are no glimpses of the hogan’s interior). There’s grandmother, sprinkling corn pollen in the dawn, sister, lacing up for a morning run, and baby brother, tied tightly into a cradleboard. Against a final group view, the author concludes: “Here is my family / walking in beauty. / Here in our home, / our Navajo hogan, / that long, long ago, / Great-Grandfather Jack / built with his hands….” The paintings look to be oil pastels on a textured surface, and they are dominated by orange-y earth tones and deep blue skies. The landscape orientation of the book works well to emphasize the wide-open spaces, but the monumental figures within seem ill-served by the compression into a book format and the close viewing that entails.

Flood’s closing tribute to the hogan’s “beautiful structure” and central role in Navajo life is moving but not reflected in the ponderous, even joyless art. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-893354-97-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Salina Bookshelf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

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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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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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