What’s meant to be a cultural celebration is, alas, culturally inaccurate.

THE PIÑATA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN HUNG

What’s a birthday without a piñata?

A young girl’s family, along with some talented farm animals, get cracking as soon as she leaves for the market. To the traditional rhythms of “The House that Jack Built,” clay is gathered, water hauled, paper shredded, etc., until all is ready for the celebration. The girl and the code-switching rhyming scheme from Vamos’ The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred (illustrated by Rafael López, 2011) return for more Spanish vocabulary reinforcement. The inclusion of Oaxacan alebrijes indicates the setting is Mexico. As such, it’s puzzling as to why “pasta” is used for the glue paste instead of the correct piñata-making term: “engrudo.” The European term “farm maiden” is also incongruous to the setting. Barcelona-based Serra’s inaccurate illustrations further the sense of inauthenticity. The characters present as Spaniards and not Mexicans, as evidenced by clothing and hats. Plain wood carvings are substituted for the fantastical alebrijes referenced in the text. Papel picado banners are depicted as pennants instead of rectangles. His piñata seems to have clay points rather than cardboard. Even the “brilliant bluebells” the caballo picks are European rather than Mexican. To add insult to injury, the glossary includes Anglicized pronunciations: “sor-PRAY-sah” instead of sor-PREH-sah for “surprise.” Such lighthearted touches as the cat ferociously shredding paper cannot mitigate the book’s flaws.

What’s meant to be a cultural celebration is, alas, culturally inaccurate. (piñata instructions, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58089-796-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

SLUG IN LOVE

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Whether in hand or on shelf, this one’s sure to make a splash anywhere and everywhere.

I'M ON IT!

From the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series

A frog tries to do everything a goat does, too.

Goat asks Frog to look at them before declaring “I’m ON it!” while balancing atop a tree stump near a pond. After an “Oooh!” and a “You know what?” Frog leaps off their lily pad to balance on a rock: “I’m on it, too!” Goat grabs a prop so that they can be both “on it AND beside it.” (It may take young readers a little bit to realize there are two its.) So does Frog. The competition continues as Frog struggles to mimic overconfident Goat’s antics. In addition to on and beside, the pair adds inside, between, under, and more. Eventually, it all gets to be too much for Frog to handle, so Frog falls into the water, resumes position on the lily pad, and declares “I am OVER it” while eating a fly. In an act of solidarity, Goat jumps in, too. In Tsurumi’s first foray into early readers she pares down her energetic, colorful cartoon style to the bare essentials without losing any of the madcap fun. Using fewer than 80 repeated words (over 12 of which are prepositions), the clever text instructs, delights, and revels in its own playfulness. Color-coded speech bubbles (orange for Goat, green for Frog) help match the dialogue with each speaker. Like others in the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, Elephant and Piggie metafictively bookend the main narrative with hilariously on-the-nose commentary.

Whether in hand or on shelf, this one’s sure to make a splash anywhere and everywhere. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06696-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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