A deeply nostalgic look at once-upon-a-time Midwest farm life.

PRAIRIE DAYS

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan tells the story of a pastoral childhood on a prairie farm.

The unnamed narrator is depicted as a pale child with fair hair living in a small prairie town in, perhaps, the 1940s. In a nostalgic, retrospective voice, the protagonist recalls the wildlife and flowers near the farmhouse; the vast landscapes; swimming in the farm pond; and the sights, smells, and sounds of happy summers spent primarily outdoors. The narrator remembers trips to small towns, the local filling station, the granary by the railroad, and the nearby shops. Characters all appear to be white, and it is strictly from this perspective that the story is told; it comes complete with cowboys who say, “Hello, little lady,” and nearby towns with names like Rattlesnake and Spotted Horse. The story is insular, told as it is from this one child’s point of view, yet sprawling in its visual depictions of the “sky so big” (the book’s wide, horizontal orientation does its best to capture this) and the point “where the prairie met the mountains.” Archer’s vivid, textured mixed-media illustrations include tissue papers and homemade stamps. They are richly colored and detailed; these are spreads to linger over. Readers may see something new with each look.

A deeply nostalgic look at once-upon-a-time Midwest farm life. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4191-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR

A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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