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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Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses...

BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, STRONG LITTLE ME!

This tan-skinned, freckle-faced narrator extols her own virtues while describing the challenges of being of mixed race.

Protagonist Lilly appears on the cover, and her voluminous curly, twirly hair fills the image. Throughout the rhyming narrative, accompanied by cartoonish digital illustrations, Lilly brags on her dark skin (that isn’t very), “frizzy, wild” hair, eyebrows, intellect, and more. Her five friends present black, Asian, white (one blonde, one redheaded), and brown (this last uses a wheelchair). This array smacks of tokenism, since the protagonist focuses only on self-promotion, leaving no room for the friends’ character development. Lilly describes how hurtful racial microaggressions can be by recalling questions others ask her like “What are you?” She remains resilient and says that even though her skin and hair make her different, “the way that I look / Is not all I’m about.” But she spends so much time talking about her appearance that this may be hard for readers to believe. The rhyming verse that conveys her self-celebration is often clumsy and forced, resulting in a poorly written, plotless story for which the internal illustrations fall far short of the quality of the cover image.

Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses the mark on both counts. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63233-170-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eifrig

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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