A powerful work, formidably illustrated.


Minimal text accents full-bleed, emotive watercolor illustrations in this Portuguese import from celebrated author and poet José Jorge Letria and his illustrator son.

The book opens with a near-black, abstract spread populated with spidery, serpentine shadows that subsequently creep and crawl across a stark landscape. A crow or raven leads the mass of darkness as “war spreads through the day like a whispered, swift disease” until it reaches a dark building inhabited by a faceless, uniformed human figure. Spiders, centipedes, beetles, and snakes march across a map-covered table as the ominous human leader dons a medieval jousting helm, sets books alight, and musters armies. Wordless spreads in dark, muted grays, military greens, and dull browns feature toy-soldier–like rows of faceless infantrymen, 1940s-style planes dropping bombs over a darkened European city, and the dark clouds and rubble the maneuvers leave in their wake. While not, perhaps, an obvious choice for young audiences well removed from the horrors of war, the frank but thoughtful wording and masterfully abstracted illustrations will provide an opportunity for caregivers to broach the heavy subject matter in a safe environment. War, personified, “feeds on hate, ambition, and spite” and is “never able to tell stories”—but this book is sure to open a door for processing and healing. Of particular note is a spread of surreal, wriggly human figures, so small as to cohere into a pattern rather than an illustration, bookended by “War is thunder and chaos” and “War is silence.”

A powerful work, formidably illustrated. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77164-726-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Aldana Libros/Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character.


From the Lola Levine series , Vol. 1

Brown introduces a smart, young protagonist with a multicultural background in this series opener for chapter-book readers.

Second-grader Lola Levine is half-Peruvian and half-Jewish; she is a skilled soccer player, a persuasive writer, and aspires to own a cat in the near future should her parents concede. During a friendly recess soccer match, Lola, playing goalie, defends an incoming ball by coming out of her box and accidentally fouls a classmate. And so Lola acquires the rhyming nickname Mean Lola Levine. Through Lola’s first-person narration, readers see clearly how her savvy and creativity come from her family: Dad, who paints, Mom, who writes, and a fireball younger brother. She also wears her bicultural identity easily. In her narration, her letters to her friends, and dialogue, Lola easily inserts such words as diario, tía, bubbe, and shalom. For dinner, the family eats matzo ball soup, Peruvian chicken, and flan. Interspersed throughout the story are references to all-star soccer athletes, from Brazilian master Pelé to Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, and David Beckham. Dominguez’s black-and-white illustrations are cheery and appealing, depicting a long-haired Caucasian father and dark-skinned, black-haired mother. Typefaces that emulate penmanship appropriately differ from character to character: Lola’s is small and clean, her mother’s is tall and slanted, while Juan’s, the injured classmate, is sloppy and lacks finesse.

Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-25836-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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