An important story that just doesn’t quite come together.

BOTTLE CAP BOYS

DANCING ON ROYAL STREET

The tale of two brothers who have a tip-top, tapping time on the streets of New Orleans.

Rudy, wearing a green-sleeved T-shirt, and his brother Randy, wearing purple, meet on Royal Street, press bottle caps into the bottoms of their white tennis shoes, and the duel commences. They tap dance for audiences large and small, the rhyming text echoing the rhythms of their movement. To help readers keep track of the back-and-forth dialogue, each boy’s words are set in type that matches his shirt color. The text makes clear the goal of this duel: “who dances best / Eats good tonight.” Beignets, pralines, red beans, jambalaya, and “po’boys for poor boys” will constitute their feast, and they plan to save a seat on the trolley for Mama. Williams-Garcia tells an important story of how many industrious African-American boys in New Orleans make money entertaining tourists, but readers who expect the brilliance of One Crazy Summer (2010) and its sequels will find this picture book a disappointment. Lackluster illustrations that flatten out rather than enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of the spectators detract further from the book’s appeal. Williams-Garcia ends with a note about her experiences with New Orleans bottle-cap boys and provides a culinary glossary for those unfamiliar with Creole and Cajun cuisine.

An important story that just doesn’t quite come together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60349-030-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marimba Books

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Though this celebration of community is joyful, there just is not much here.

ONE LOVE

A sugary poem, very loosely based on the familiar song, lacks focus.

Using only the refrain from the original (“One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right!”), the reggae great’s daughter Cedella Marley sees this song as her “happy song” and adapts it for children. However, the adaptation robs it of life. After the opening lines, readers familiar with the original song (or the tourism advertisement for Jamaica) will be humming along only to be stopped by the bland lines that follow: “One love, what the flower gives the bee.” and then “One love, what Mother Earth gives the tree.” Brantley-Newton’s sunny illustrations perfectly reflect the saccharine quality of the text. Starting at the beginning of the day, readers see a little girl first in bed, under a photograph of Bob Marley, the sun streaming into her room, a bird at the window. Each spread is completely redundant—when the text is about family love, the illustration actually shows little hearts floating from her parents to the little girl. An image of a diverse group getting ready to plant a community garden, walking on top of a river accompanies the words “One love, like the river runs to the sea.”

Though this celebration of community is joyful, there just is not much here. (afterword) (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0224-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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THE GRUFFALO

The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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