A visually and emotionally immersive immigration story.

GIBBERISH

A boy begins school in a new country where everyone speaks gibberish.

Poignant front pages set the scene as a tiny woman and boy set sail from a tropical land and an airplane flies from a colorful landscape into a dulling gray sky. The story thus begins in a new grayscale landscape where only Dat, an Asian-featured boy, and his mother are in full color as he heads off to school. Vo ingeniously makes everything about this new environment feel foreign and surreal: the palette, the bulbous vehicles, and especially the wacky 1940s-style cartoon figures Dat encounters who speak in unintelligible icons inside speech bubbles (and repeatedly get his name wrong). Cartoon classmates are various types of humanoid creatures—some one-eyed, some horned—with large, expressive googly eyes, while Dat is finely drawn in realistic color, his facial expressions perfectly conveying his struggles with this new culture and language. But then one of his classmates engages with him. The two realize they can communicate and share English words through drawings, and as their bond blossoms, the new friend gains pale-skinned color, realistic form, and a name: Julie. Vo’s use of color and style as metaphors is not new, but the execution is stellar, creating a viscerally uncomfortable experience while also infusing the narrative with humor throughout. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A visually and emotionally immersive immigration story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64614-110-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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