AUNT CLAIRE’S YELLOW BEEHIVE HAIR

A child catches glimpses of her family’s past in what they’ve left behind in this richly sentimental portrait gallery. After rummaging through “shoe boxes, dusty albums, old straw baskets, and the backs of drawers” one rainy afternoon, Annie sits with her grandma and great aunt to hear the stories behind what she’s found: old stamps and letters; pictures of men, women, and babies in antique dress; the hair ribbon Aunt Claire wore as she cooked up homemade face cream and lipstick to sell; Great-Grandma Sophie’s wedding veil; photos of soldiers, some of whom never came back. As Annie assembles the memorabilia into an album, adding explanatory one-liners like “Harry’s dark eyes broke women’s hearts,” or “Stella’s holiday dinners kept the family together,” GrandPré moves the point of view closer and closer in her creamy, luminous pastels, until the people begin to lean out past the edges of their snapshots, coming to life in Annie’s mind. In its diversity—one ancestor came from Sweden, at least one other could be African-American, and Grandma makes a reference to the Kaddish at the end—Annie’s family can stand for anyone’s. The strength of Annie’s urge to create connections with previous generations may kindle a similar interest in young readers—outweighing poor design that has allowed text on some pages to vanish into the gutter. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2509-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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