A culturally responsive picture-book critique of gender roles.

DANCING IN THATHA'S FOOTSTEPS

On Sundays, Varun’s grandfather takes Varun’s sister, Varsha, to dance lessons where she learns bharatanatyam, a South Asian dance style estimated to be 2,000 years old.

When Thatha invites Varun to come and watch the lesson, he doesn’t think that he’ll be interested. To Varun’s surprise, though, he finds the rhythm impossible to resist. Before long, he leaps to his feet and joins in with the other dancers. Dancing makes Varun feel wonderful—that is, until his sister tells him he has to stop because dancing is not for boys. Although Thatha objects, revealing that he used to be an accomplished dancer in India, Varun still feels uncomfortable. After all, if he did join his sister’s dance class, he would be the only boy. With a little help from Thatha, Varun musters up the courage to follow his dreams—and to prove that gender stereotypes are no match for the power of performance. This book’s charming protagonist and believable plot provide a wonderful opening for conversations about the dangers of strict gender constructs. The vibrant paintings take readers to a diverse U.S. city, cleverly incorporating details such as a Pride flag and a Black Lives Matter sign that establish a clear political tone. In this context, the author’s note disappoints, focusing on discrimination male dancers face instead of challenging the kind of toxic masculinity Varun overcomes in the story.

A culturally responsive picture-book critique of gender roles. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949528-90-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Yali Books

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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