A visually interesting but disorganized reader that features images from a museum with a problematic history.

FIRST WORDS

EARLY LEARNING AT THE MUSEUM

From the Early Learning at the Museum series

A vocabulary-building board book featuring artifacts from the collection of the British Museum.

Each item chosen from the museum’s historically and geographically expansive collection is paired with large, bold text, introducing children to representations of each term that hail from a variety of cultures. Along with companion title Animals, it showcases a range of artistic styles, from paintings and prints through plaster of Paris, brass, and wooden sculptures to well-worn household materials. Although the concept behind the curation is interesting, unfortunately, neither this title nor Animals rises above the aesthetic level of a typical board book of its ilk. This title in particular lacks cohesion, as the images are not organized alphabetically or according to theme, as many vocabulary books are, making the images and words feel arbitrary. Several pages feature multiple images that are separated only by bold blocks of color, which creates a cluttered look. Furthermore, a number of the artifacts featured in both books appear to have been made during the pre-independence era in countries that were once part of the British Empire, suggesting that they may have become part of the collection as a result of colonization, a fact that the book’s creators leave disturbingly unaddressed.

A visually interesting but disorganized reader that features images from a museum with a problematic history. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0584-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images.

THURGOOD

The life journey of the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the incidents that formed him.

Thurgood Marshall grew up in segregated Baltimore, Maryland, with a family that encouraged him to stand for justice. Despite attending poor schools, he found a way to succeed. His father instilled in him a love of the law and encouraged him to argue like a lawyer during dinner conversations. His success in college meant he could go to law school, but the University of Maryland did not accept African American students. Instead, Marshall went to historically black Howard University, where he was mentored by civil rights lawyer Charles Houston. Marshall’s first major legal case was against the law school that denied him a place, and his success brought him to the attention of the NAACP and ultimately led to his work on the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education, which itself led to his appointment to the Supreme Court. This lively narrative serves as an introduction to the life of one of the country’s important civil rights figures. Important facts in Marshall’s life are effectively highlighted in an almost staccato fashion. The bold watercolor-and-collage illustrations, beginning with an enticing cover, capture and enhance the strong tone set by the words.

A larger-than-life subject is neatly captured in text and images. (author’s note, photos) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6533-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

LUNAR NEW YEAR

From the Celebrate the World series

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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