THE PLAYGROUNDS OF BABEL

A new take on the Babel tale featuring friendship, song, and a dragon.

Two children on a playground overhear an old woman telling a story. Since one child doesn’t understand her language, the other takes on the storytelling. The story differs from what the listener—and perhaps readers—is familiar with: After the people of Babel build their tower, “God sent a dragon to destroy the tower, and then God made it impossible for people to understand each other—by making new languages for everyone.” The translating child continues, describing how sudden linguistic barriers did nothing to dim the friendship between two young girls of Babel. Through song, the two discovered how to communicate once more. Conveyed entirely through dialogue, back-and-forth questioning between listening child and translating child moves the action forward but also prompts musings on belief and story. “None of it is realistic. It’s a story, not reality.…No one’s asking you to believe, just imagine.” Grobler’s mixed-media work illustrates the narrative layers. He sticks primarily to an inky palette for the playground action while illuminating the Babel tale with bright watercolor and colored pencil. Just as the skeptical child concedes, “That sounds realistic,” the illustrator injects color into the playground. Languages are denoted by different symbol sets rather than lettering, and the cast of characters is diverse in skin color and dress, including both pairs of friends.

A conversation starter. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-036-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Another sweet, empathetic day with Benny and Penny.

BENNY AND PENNY IN HOW TO SAY GOODBYE

From the Benny and Penny series , Vol. 6

The sixth title in the Benny and Penny graphic early reader series captures children's transitory emotions with quiet, forgiving humor.

When Benny and Penny find a dead salamander, Penny names it Little Red and insists on a burial, while Benny thinks it's gross. The siblings' contrasting reactions continue throughout the tale. Their “grief” is just as transitory and matter-of-fact as that of the children in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Dead Bird (re-issued with new illustrations by Christian Robinson in 2016), though the comic-book format and Hayes' age-appropriate humor update the story. (Benny, hiding behind a bush, sneezes, causing Penny and her mole friend Melina to check the corpse for signs of life.) Although Penny responds in stereotypical girl fashion, bringing flowers for the grave, Benny expresses emotions too. When they find a living salamander, Benny thinks it's Little Red's ghost, while Penny decides it's Red's sister and names it Paula. Speech bubbles used to tell the story guide readers through the pages, while warm, friendly illustrations reminiscent of another classic, Beatrix Potter, provide detail and humor for new readers to study. Death is an odd subject for a comic for young children, but Hayes handles it well. For newly independent readers, this is an alternative to—not a replacement for—Brown’s classic.

Another sweet, empathetic day with Benny and Penny. (Graphic early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935179-99-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: TOON Books & Graphics

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Whether newbies to Indian mythology or longtime Amar Chitra Katha aficionados, readers are sure to be entertained by these...

GANESHA

THE WONDER YEARS

From the Campfire Junior series

Lovably mischievous Ganesha figures out how to win a race and get his belly full of yummy rice in modern interpretations of two favorite Indian stories about the childhood of the elephant-headed god.

When Ganesha is challenged by his godly parents to race his superfast brother around the world to win a magic apple, his lumbering pace and portly form make him rethink the meaning of what is most important to him in the whole world. In another story, Ganesha’s boundless appetite causes great consternation to his host, the proud king Kubera, who must learn the secret to satisfying this young god. Told in hilarious rhyming couplets (“I am hungry, can’t you see? / You will have to get more food for me”) and illustrated playfully, this brief graphic novel ably introduces kids to the wise, exuberant child Ganesha. While most of the characters are drawn with cartoony panache and humor, the notable exception is a rather Caucasian-looking goddess Parvati, whose face is stuck in a constantly downcast direction—a puzzling choice for depicting the only female character. Despite this and some forced rhymes, on the whole Dutta and Nagulakonda leave readers happy and wanting more—which is on the way, if the last line, “Not the End,” is to be trusted.

Whether newbies to Indian mythology or longtime Amar Chitra Katha aficionados, readers are sure to be entertained by these fresh interpretations of ancient Indian tales. (Graphic novel. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-93-81182-10-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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