MY FAMILY PLAYS MUSIC

Here’s a clan that outdoes even the Marsalis family. From her great grandmother, who plays a cathedral’s mighty pipe organ, to little niece Sadie, who plays pots and pans in the kitchen, it seems that everyone related to this high-energy young narrator is a musician. And she’s no exception, either: in fact, she plays with them all, on tambourine, triangle, cowbell, woodblock, maracas, handbell, and more. In cut-paper collages that look silk-screened, Brown depicts this exuberant percussionist with cornrows and a big grin, confidently accompanying big band and string quartet, dancing on club stages, and joining marching bands, plainly welcome wherever she goes. A closing glossary explains some of the terms and musical genres mentioned here, but it’s the pride this child takes in her family, and her place in that family, that readers will remember most clearly. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-8234-1591-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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THOSE SHOES

The hottest fad can also be the most expensive and out of reach for children in limited financial circumstances. Jeremy, living with his Grandma, dreams of wearing the latest cool black high-tops with two white stripes. But as Grandma points out, “There’s no room for ‘want’ around here—just ‘need’ ” and what Jeremy needs and gets is a new pair of winter boots. Jeremy’s quest for new sneakers takes on more urgency when his old pair fall apart, and the only choice is the Velcro baby-blue set meant for little kids found in the school’s donation box by the guidance counselor. Even Grandma understands and together they search several thrift shops and actually find the coveted black high-tops, but they’re too small. Buying them anyway, Jeremy makes a heartfelt decision to put them to a more practical and generous use. Boelts blends themes of teasing, embarrassment and disappointment with kindness and generosity in a realistic interracial school scenario bringing affecting closure to a little boy’s effort to cope in a world filled with materialistic attractions and distractions. Muted browns/greens/blues done in watercolors, pencils and ink, and digitally arranged, add to the story’s expressive affirmation of what is really important. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2499-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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