ARK IN THE PARK

This 1994 Australian first chapter book is sure to win many hearts on this end of the Pacific Rim. Mr. and Mrs. Noah own an extraordinary pet shop called The Noahs’ Ark. Built with glass sails and a unicorn figurehead, it is full of ponies and lambs and cats and dogs. The Noahs long for grandchildren—a difficulty since they do not have children—but they love their animals and enjoy their own lives. Seven-year-old Sophie gazes longingly at The Noahs’ Ark from her apartment window. She hasn’t any cousins, and her parents are very busy with their work and her younger twin siblings. But for her seventh birthday, she asks her parents just to visit the pet shop, and off they go. Her dad’s allergic, but he enjoys being behind the scenes; her mom likes talking to someone other than the twins; and Sophie is nearly delirious with joy. Soon Sophie learns to cross the road herself—her mom watches from the window—and she becomes the Noahs’ assistant, helping to feed and care for all the pets until they find their own homes. The magic of getting what you wish for is told in graceful prose full of gentleness and whimsy; the beguiling line drawings are full of amusing details that invite closer scrutiny, especially as they work their way in and out of the text. Satisfying and most charming. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-6221-1

Page Count: 78

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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