A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships.

TOMATOES FOR NEELA

Neela loves cooking with her mother in their big, warm kitchen, where her grandmother’s portrait hangs on the wall.

On Saturday, Neela and Amma go to the green market to buy the vegetable Neela loves cooking best: tomatoes! Together, Neela and Amma make a sauce using a recipe passed down from Paati. As they cook, Neela and her mother dance to the music Amma’s bangles make when she chops vegetables and grates carrots. Amma tells Neela about how tomatoes came from Mesoamerica, where they were cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, and how Europeans initially feared they were poisonous. Now, Amma says, they’re used in cooking all over the world—including India, where Paati’s recipe comes from. As they finish the sauce and can it for the winter, Amma tells Neela about the tomato harvest and about the benefits of eating and cooking vegetables and fruits while they are in season. As they finish preserving the sauce, Neela saves a jar for Paati, who will visit in the winter. Martinez-Neal’s warmly textured, beautifully detailed illustrations are the perfect celebration of intergenerational love. Similarly, the gentle text has some lovely emotional moments. However, Lakshmi includes so much information in the narrative that it meanders, which may cause readers to lose hold of its core. Recipes for sauce and chutney, additional tomato facts, a note about farm workers, and a personal note close the book.

A digressive plot gets in the way of this celebration of female relationships. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20270-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain.

THE SOUR CHERRY TREE

With ample emotional subtext, a young girl recalls everyday details about her beloved grandfather the day after his death.

The child bites her mother’s toe to wake her up, wishing that she could have done the same for her baba bozorg, her beloved grandfather, who had forgotten to wake up the day before. She kisses a pancake that reminds her of her grandfather’s face. Her mother, who had been admonishing her for playing with her food, laughs and kisses the pancake’s forehead. Returning to Baba Bozorg’s home, the child sees minute remnants of her grandfather: a crumpled-up tissue, smudgy eyeglasses, and mint wrappers in his coat pockets. From these artifacts the narrator transitions to less tangible, but no less vivid, memories of playing together and looks of love that transcend language barriers. Deeply evocative, Hrab’s narrative captures a child’s understanding of loss with gentle subtlety, and gives space for processing those feelings. Kazemi’s chalk pastel art pairs perfectly with the text and title: Pink cherry hues, smoky grays, and hints of green plants appear throughout the book, concluding in an explosion of vivid green that brings a sense of renewal, joy, and remembrance to the heartfelt ending. Though the story is universally relevant, cultural cues and nods to Iranian culture will resonate strongly with readers of Iranian/Persian heritage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully poignant celebration of memories of a loved one that live on in those that remain. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-414-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force.

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LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET

A young boy yearns for what he doesn’t have, but his nana teaches him to find beauty in what he has and can give, as well as in the city where they live.

CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain or take the bus or go places after church. But through Nana’s playful imagination and gentle leadership, he begins to see each moment as an opportunity: Trees drink raindrops from straws; the bus breathes fire; and each person has a story to tell. On the bus, Nana inspires an impromptu concert, and CJ’s lifted into a daydream of colors and light, moon and magic. Later, when walking past broken streetlamps on the way to the soup kitchen, CJ notices a rainbow and thinks of his nana’s special gift to see “beautiful where he never even thought to look.” Through de la Peña’s brilliant text, readers can hear, feel and taste the city: its grit and beauty, its quiet moments of connectedness. Robinson’s exceptional artwork works with it to ensure that readers will fully understand CJ’s journey toward appreciation of the vibrant, fascinating fabric of the city. Loosely defined patterns and gestures offer an immediate and raw quality to the Sasek-like illustrations. Painted in a warm palette, this diverse urban neighborhood is imbued with interest and possibility.

This celebration of cross-generational bonding is a textual and artistic tour de force. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25774-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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