A simple, lovely story about the power of blooming where you are planted.

UNCLE JOHN'S CITY GARDEN

In this swan song from one of children’s publishing’s pioneers, a young girl nicknamed Li'l Sissy and her siblings are recruited by their uncle to grow a garden in an inner-city housing project.

Narrating in the first person, the girl shares that when they first arrived at Uncle John's Garden “there were no plants yet—just dirt.” Readers see a barren plot of land surrounded by monotonous chains of tall brick buildings. Uncle John, a physical giant of a man, tills the land and labels the garden rows with plant markers, then the children dig holes, plants seeds, and water the plantings. In the following weeks, they visit the garden almost daily—there are weeds to pull and bugs to chase away—and revel in the wonder of sprouting shoots and budding flowers. When a huge storm arrives, there is high tension as the children wonder if their garden will be destroyed in the raging weather. Thankfully, all is well, and a fine harvest ensues throughout the summer. Young readers will feel the siblings’ sense of accomplishment as they share the garden’s produce at a big family barbecue. Ford’s lovingly remembered autobiographical tale highlights the power of urban gardening to foster community, revive decaying property, create food resiliency, and even promote STEM learning. The figures in Morrison’s oil-and–spray-paint paintings emote pride and quiet joy, challenging the negative association between African American people and farming. All characters are Black.

A simple, lovely story about the power of blooming where you are planted. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4786-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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