Recent reviews from InterroBang, reprinted with permission from www.childrensliteraturenetwork.com:
I’ve been immersed in non-fiction for kids lately. There are a bevy of books to delight young readers, from notes on the history of underwear to all-female big bands during World War II. But the one that seems most tempting to readers of all ages and ability levels is A School Like Mine ($19.99), the latest in a series of books jointly created by Unicef and the publisher Dorling Kindersley. The theory behind the series, which began with Children Just Like Me, is to show kids around the world how their daily lives: work, play, religious practices compare with one another. Using high quality photos and spanning the entire globe, the editors of DK help children meet others like them in other countries and on other continents. In addition to the lovely photos, the children featured give readers a tour of life at school, including what’s for lunch, what their lesson books and schools look like, and how they get to and from school. From Semira in Ethiopia, who is an AIDS orphan and goes to a school of 2,500, to Lukasi from an Inuit village in Quebec, Canada, children share their hopes as well as their daily struggles. There are so many points of departure for teachers and parents with this book, beginning with having kids make a collage of their own school and home experiences with interviews and photos that illustrate their daily lives. If nothing else, the youthful exuberance, energy and hope of these young people from varying backgrounds will young readers the sense that we really are more alike than we are different.
How do I begin to describe The Flower (Child’s Play, $16.99) by John Light? When I handed the book to the cashier at the independent bookstore Children in Paradise in Chicago, she said, “It’s not often that we carry post-apocalyptic picture books.” Well, that’s one way to describe it, I suppose, but it doesn’t capture the essence of the story of the little boy, Briggs, who lives alone and works in a very gray city, and whose longing for a flower ends up changing his world.
Briggs shelves books in a library—a library that has, of all things, a section of books labeled, do not read.
What’s a boy to do? Smuggle one home, of course. It is a book about flowers, something completely unknown to Briggs. He becomes fascinated with their shapes and colors and searches the city until he finds, in a junk shop, an old packet of flower seeds. Briggs’ town has no dirt, so he gathers dust in a cup and plants the seeds as the packet instructs. Then he waits for something to happen. When a tendril emerges from the cup, young readers are delighted by how the green growing vines and leaves brighten Briggs’ life. Watching over his flower teaches Briggs about the fragility of life and also about how loving care can reap rewards greater than one thought possible. All this is related to us in a few scant lines per page.
It is still impossible to describe the loveliness of this book without showing the illustrations by newcomer Lisa Evans. A gray and lonely world is punctuated by the luminous petals of a flower, a green leafy handbag, a blue enamel cup. When Briggs’ flower is a mature plant, the color scale of the book begins to tip and the reader can envision this impersonal drab city filled with window boxes straight out of a town in Provence. That is the how the book ends, with flowers twining around a window that frames the smile of the little boy who began this transformation all by himself.