A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America.

WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?

A Black man teaches two Black children about their roots.

“Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?” These questions open the book as a man leads an unnamed boy and girl, presumably his children, into “Remembrance Park,” where they gaze up at Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Stacey Abrams, and Martin Luther King Jr., who appear as cloudy apparitions in the sky. This imagery gives the misleading impression that Abrams, very much alive, is in heaven with the other figures, who are all deceased. Later on in the story, another potentially delusive illustration shows the main characters visiting a Mount Rushmore–like monument showcasing Kamala Harris alongside departed Black icons. After highlighting inspirational individuals who are not descended from people enslaved in the United States, the illustrations paradoxically depict enslaved Black Americans working in cotton fields. The portrayal of slavery is benevolent, and the images of civil rights marches and sit-ins likewise lack the necessary emotional depth. The text’s statement that “you are from the country where time moves with ease and where kindness is cherished” erases centuries of African American struggle in the face of racist violence and systemic exclusion. The book tries to instill pride in African Americans, who continue to struggle with a lack of shared identity or common experience; ultimately, it stumbles in its messaging and attempts to turn an extremely complicated, sometimes controversial topic into a warm and fuzzy picture book. All characters are Black.

A simplistic take on the complex issue of Black identity in America. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308285-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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