A simplistic, outdated take on Diwali for young children.

BINNY'S DIWALI

It’s Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and Binny can’t wait to tell her class about her favorite holiday.

On their way through their North American suburb to school, Binny’s mother wishes her luck and reminds her to tell her class about the oil lamps that are a central part of their family’s Diwali tradition. But when Binny’s teacher, Mr. Boomer, invites her to share, Binny freezes, overcome with shyness. Taking a deep breath, she remembers her mother’s advice. The thought of the world filled with light—symbolizing the triumph of good over evil—gives Binny the strength she needs to tell her family’s Diwali story. While the book is thorough in its description of traditions like wearing new clothes, eating sweets, lighting lamps, and decorating floors and sidewalks with colored powder, the prose is clunky and clumsy, and Binny’s conflict is resolved so quickly that the story arc feels limp and uninteresting.  Other elements of the text are troubling as well. Calling Binny’s new clothes an “Indian outfit,” for example, erases the fact that the kurta she wears is typical of the entire South Asian subcontinent. The use of most fireworks, which the author treats as an essential part of the holiday, is now banned in India due to concerns about pollution and child labor. Most problematically of all, the author continually treats Diwali as a Hindu holiday celebrated by “everyone,” which is untrue in India or in diaspora and which dangerously equates Hindu and Indian identity. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads reviewed at 49% of actual size.)

A simplistic, outdated take on Diwali for young children. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-36448-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more