STARS IN THE DARKNESS

Joosse (A Houseful of Christmas, 2001, etc.) tells the story of a boy’s sadness over his older brother’s growing gang involvement and of his idea to speak out against it. The young narrator talks about the night outside his house: “Sometimes, Mama and me look down at the street and pretend it’s not the city. We shut our eyes so only a crack is open, lookin’ through our eyelashes, and pretend we live on the moon. . . . If there’s shots fired, we say it’s the light of the stars crackin’ the darkness.” He is “afraid of what’s out there,” and depends on his brother Richard sleeping by his side (the window side) to protect him. Despite the narrators protestations that “We got each other. . . . We sure don’t need no bangers,” Richard starts staying out nights and wearing colors, and so the narrator and his mother get the idea to organize neighborhood peace walks, bringing families out into the streets at night. Christie’s deep and vivid palate frames the story, playing perspectives and shapes against the joy and tension-filled faces of the characters. His naïve style of painting may not appeal to all kids, who will also be aware that this is a “teaching” story, in the vein of Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night (1994). Nevertheless, it is well executed in word and picture, and shows an aspect of urban life that is rare in picture books, but sadly common in many kids’ lives. An annotated list of resources on gang prevention is included. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8118-2168-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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