Loading...

Follow Kirkus Reviews on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

Young readers are introduced to well-known animals and the sounds they make.

Sweet, whimsical illustrations in pastel colors introduce a dog, a cat, a frog, a cow, a mouse, a pig, a bird, a sheep, and a rooster, each animal having its own double-page spread. On the verso, a simple statement accompanies each depicted animal: “The cat says ‘meow’ ”; “The frog says ‘ribbit’ ”; “The pig says ‘oink.’ ” Opposite these statements, the animal is depicted performing some playful action: riding a bike, dancing, singing, dressing up as a ghost. Unfortunately, as there is neither rhyme, rhythm, nor logic to connect the two sides, the text falls flat, and readers are more likely to be left mystified than delighted. For example: “The dog says ‘woof.’ / Even when it’s riding a bike.” Or: “The cow says ‘moo.’ / Even on Halloween.” Or: “The bird says ‘tweet.’ / Even when it’s being tickled.” The result is a feeling of arbitrary silliness rather than artful whimsy. In the penultimate spread all the animals make an appearance as they wave at the readers: “They all wave to you. / Even when the book is over!” The final spread acts as a review, with pictures standing in for nouns, rebus-fashion.

With so many high-quality books on the animal-sounds bookshelf, this one’s easy to skip. (Board book. 1-3)

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Oakes’ (The Black Coats, 2019, etc.) Christian picture book illustrates God’s diurnal and nocturnal creations.

Little Niko awakes in the middle of the night with the realization that he left his toy train in the woods near his house. He hurriedly dons his coat and boots and runs out into the night to retrieve his favorite toy. Along the way, he notes the differences in his surroundings from when he was playing in the woods the previous morning. Instead of singing goldfinches (“bay-bee”) and drilling woodpeckers (“thump-thump-thump”), there’s a barn owl calling (“hoot-hoot”). Where bees were buzzing, fireflies dance. As Niko passes through the night, he knows that even in the dark, God watches over him. He reaches the end of the woods and finds his prized train on a fence post and, rejoicing, returns home to go back to bed. This charming, simple tale is punctuated with vibrant paint-and-collage illustrations by debut illustrator Chan. Though the narrative mentions God and the author unveils in the afterword that she was inspired by several specific parables from the Bible, the Christian themes aren’t heavy-handed. Oakes ably employs color words and onomatopoeia to engage young audiences.

Engages both the eye and ear as it instills a sense of wonder.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
<

Vanity Fair contributing editor and renowned architecture critic Goldberger (Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, 2015, etc.) sets his gaze on the design of Major League Baseball stadiums.

The detail of the research, both its breadth and depth, is remarkable, and the author doesn’t limit himself to current stadiums; he also looks at some dating back to the 19th century. The volume also includes more than 150 illuminating photos scattered throughout the text. Though the narrative is not always cohesive—Goldberger jumps from one ballpark and city to another—each chapter carries a theme and subthemes as the author demonstrates trends in stadium design. He discusses the evolving designs in terms of the quality of the viewing experience for fans, and he evaluates how each stadium shapes the city around it—and is simultaneously shaped by the characteristics of that particular city. Goldberger’s touchstone is Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles that opened in 1992. It’s clear that the author considers Camden Yards the most exciting stadium ever constructed, and in his opinion, since it was built, it has not been surpassed. In addition to discussing inanimate qualities such as the wood, steel, stone, and concrete of the edifices, Goldberger provides miniportraits of hundreds of men (and a few women) who have owned the baseball teams, influenced the politics of the cities where the stadiums sit, and designed the stadiums in both derivative and original ways. Goldberger is aware that he could have also included ballparks from the minor leagues across the United States, from the now defunct Negro League, and from baseball cultures outside North America. He explains that such inclusivity would have yielded an encyclopedia rather than a smooth narrative, so he set limits on the scope of the book, which is quite impressive in its current form.

A tour de force that will appeal to devoted baseball fans, architecture devotees, and even casual readers.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

An eye-opening exposé on generic drugs.

Given the greed of pharmaceutical companies, writes investigative journalist Eban (Dangerous Doses: How Counterfeiters Are Contaminating America's Drug Supply, 2005), cheap generics are essential to money-strapped consumers—and that just may be a death sentence. There are many players and levels in this excellent book, a solid mix of the history of generic drugs, whistleblower tale, and pharmaceutical detective story. The whistleblower in question is a young executive and systems engineer from India, lured home after being educated in the United States to work for a huge pharmacological concern that specializes in making generic drugs. There’s a fortune to be made there, Eban writes, especially for the first to market, who can enjoy a brief monopoly. The margins are further improved by eliminating key steps in the quality-control process—and then cooking the books when investigators from the Food and Drug Administration come to inspect. The executive in question sounded the alarm, his charge backed by on-the-ground evidence from an FDA investigator. However, he faced prosecution, not least on the part of the FDA and U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein. “My reporting,” writes Eban early on, “led me into a web of global deception”—and, she makes clear throughout this long but tightly narrated book, that deception may well prove fatal to medical consumers. This is especially true in the developing world, she writes, for if substandard drugs are regularly shipped from plants in India, China, and elsewhere to the U.S. and Europe, the really ineffective, dangerous stuff is headed for markets in Africa, South America, and Asia: EpiPens, AIDS cocktails, cures that may turn out to be poisons. For all the efforts of that FDA inspector, writes the author, the new antiregulatory FDA now gives foreign companies advance warning of inspections, allowing the deception to grow and flourish as suspect drugs continue to roll in, "including a crucial chemotherapy drug for treating leukemia and breast and ovarian cancers.”

An urgent, alarming work of health reporting that will make you question every drug in your medicine cabinet.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

An exploration of loss spanning two centuries from the author of Lake People (2013).

Jane is 12 when her older sister, Henrietta, disappears from their New England town. This is sometime around the turn of the millennium and 20 years before Jane begins her tale. In the 1850s, Claire is still living at home with her parents when her older sister, Elspeth, stops sending letters from America. What unites these two narratives—aside from the coincidences—is a building in the woods. In Elspeth’s time, it’s the house her husband built for her and their children. In Jane’s time, it’s a ruin and the setting of fables her father tells his two girls. This is an ungainly book, more like two unfinished novels loosely stitched together than a coherent, multifaceted whole. Jane narrates her own story, but she never emerges as a real person. That she remains a shadow of her older sister makes psychological sense, but it makes for a boring character. And Henrietta herself is, in the sections narrated by Jane, little more than a sexually precocious loner and a bit of a jerk. It’s hard to see what makes her so fascinating that Jane doesn’t seem to have a life of her own even before Henrietta’s disappearance rips a hole in everything. And Henrietta remains inscrutable even when she’s describing her experiences in her own voice. More than that, the portion of the novel that covers Henrietta’s early days on her own is simply incredible. Readers are expected to believe that a 15-year-old girl with no form of identification is able to get two jobs and buy a car. The fact that one of these jobs is as the caretaker of an empty and isolated home is also fantastically convenient. This teen also pays for everything with crisp $100 bills that she clips from uncut sheets herself with scissors; this stolen fortune is another astonishingly lucky break for the runaway. The sections of the book set in the 19th century are slightly more compelling, but, even here, the text reads more like notes toward a novel than a finished work.

Odd and unsatisfying.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Despite the obvious inspiration of “The House that Jack Built,” this text does not accumulate but rather rhythmically recounts bee-related activities.

“This is the golden honey, / made by the thousands of busy bees, / that work inside the dark shelter / that stands in the yard. // And this is Jack, the daddy, / who keeps bees as a hobby, / gathering honey from the bee box / that stands in the yard.” The bees pollinate, gather nectar, and make honey; Jack harvests the honey and makes beeswax candles; his family eats the honey. While bees are a hot topic, this book falls short in several ways. With rhythm that never takes off and a narrative that meanders between hive and house, there is no real sense of continuity from blossom to table. The cheery cartoon art, heavy on honey yellow, is likewise unsuccessful. The bees themselves, with exaggerated proboscises and elongated, dully colored abdomens, look uncomfortably like mosquitoes, and they are depicted carrying pollen on all their legs instead of only their back two. The hive, described in the text as a modern set of boxes, has the profile of an old-fashioned straw one and is, as depicted, highly unlikely to be found in any actual bee yard. Companion title The Cow that Jack Milked is rather more coherent in narrative but equally halting in its rhythms. The family members in both books (they appear to be different) all have beige skin.

Barely marginal. (Picture book. 3-6)

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Aiko spends the summer in rural Japan with her biological father in this sequel to Gadget Girl (2013).

Aiko Cassidy feels like she doesn’t fit in with the perfect family her mother has created with her Latinx stepfather and their new baby. Aiko is biracial (her mother is white) and has cerebral palsy. Hoping for a sense of belonging and some inspiration for her manga, Gadget Girl, she accepts her biological father’s invitation to spend the summer with his family on their indigo farm in Japan. Aiko attends school with her half brother, goes on tours with her father and his wife, and tries to please her disapproving Obaachan. As long-buried family secrets emerge, Aiko’s view of her entire family changes. Kamata has created another engaging coming-of-age story about finding one’s place in the world. The inclusion of the Japanese language and cultural details adds richness to Aiko’s journey of self-discovery. Past disasters that have deeply affected Japan—atomic bombs, earthquakes, and tsunamis—are in turn shown to influence Aiko’s view of the world. So much happens in the book that some elements are not fully developed, and readers may be left wanting more resolution. However, overall the storylines weave together beautifully.

A lovely sequel that focuses on finding strength in one’s self and maintaining hope when all seems lost. (Fiction. 12-17)

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Pearson's short stories explore the boundary between the surreal and the mundane as her characters negotiate demanding situations.

This collection of 14 stories—Pearson's first book of fiction for adults—focuses on how tensions build to the breaking point for isolated people who have reached their limits. A new mother exhausted from lack of sleep and intellectual fulfillment lets a neighbor watch her infant while she naps only to wake disoriented and alone with just the baby (“Changeling”). A student hungry for validation accepts an invitation to a benefactor’s home and is startled by a request related to the man’s deteriorating health (“The Private Collection”). A doctor consumed by grief following her ex-fiance’s sudden death engages in a battle of wills with a patient in detox (“Wages”). And a new teacher is humiliated when students expose the circumstances that prompted her career change (“Romantics”). No matter the size of the decisive moment, the details of the situation always border slightly on the surreal, causing both characters and reader to question reality. Pearson’s stories are meticulously written, with layers that are incrementally and patiently revealed. Her voice nimbly creates a sense of strangeness and detachment without ever lapsing into coldness, providing a remarkable sense of continuity across a diverse array of characters and settings. At the heart of this collection are questions about how people can survive circumstances that demand hard choices without losing faith in everything in their lives up to that critical juncture.

Intriguing and satisfying.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

In this debut novel, an American couple’s marriage becomes tested by a culture of corruption in 1980s Indonesia.

Jack Harrison is a handsome, self-made banker who worked hard to pull himself out of poverty in the South. His wife, Laura, is a compassionate redhead with a burgeoning career as a fashion designer in New York. She’s forced to leave her career behind when Jack’s boss offers to make him president of a bank in Jakarta. There, a sinking feeling haunts Laura when they move into the morbid home of the bank’s former president, who left in a hurry under mysterious circumstances. When Laura finds out that he departed because his wife committed suicide, she takes it as an ominous sign. Despite warnings that Jakarta is tough for rich expat wives, Laura tries to carve out a life for herself, getting involved in ecological activism, teaching children, and even attempting to start a small business. Jack, on the other hand, has a harder time adjusting. The bank he’s taken over is owed $1 million from a defaulted loan and a local judge refuses to help the institution’s legal proceedings without a bribe. As Jack tries to find more business for his bank, he realizes cutting corners is de rigueur in Indonesia. A particularly tempting offer comes from Johnny, the son of the president of Indonesia, whose charming demeanor masks shady rainforest lumber practices, among other things. With Jack hiding the complexities of the bank’s reality from Laura, a rift opens in their marriage. In this intricate tale, Kearns is skilled at building the stakes, but his treatment of local characters leaves much to be desired. The Asian women Jack meets are frequently described in exotified terms (“In the soft light from above, her dark hair shone like the luster of black satin”). “The husbands here go gaga over Asian women,” one expat wife says to Laura—a warning that echoes throughout the novel. But as Jack and Laura’s marriage slowly unravels, a taut plot thread that threatens his livelihood deftly comes into focus, pushing the heroine to the edge and turning the book into an intriguing page-turner.

An armchair tour of complex Indonesian issues, incorporated in a readable thriller.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

A young child struggles to banish pervasive negative thoughts.

“I have a cold little voice that follows me everywhere,” the beleaguered narrator declares as a snarling, blue, tadpole-shaped thing with arms taps their shoulder. Sometimes it “digs in its claws and whispers its cold little thoughts,” berating their every inch—from their “ridiculous” haircut to their “funny” gait—until it’s all they hear. After the child, who ordinarily has purple skin, is “crushed” into “a small, grey nothing” and wonders, “Will it ever, ever stop?” a sunny voice they “never even knew [they] had inside [them]” says, “I’ll make it stop.” To that end, they sit in the sunlight, snuggle a cat, and seek out rainbow-skinned people who “like [them] the way [they are]. People who help.” (Unfortunately, the nature of this help is unspecified.) They resolve to “pity” and “hug” their cold voice so that it will “grow into a big, warm, kind voice” and possibly befriend “other people’s cold little voices,” spreading happiness until cold voices disappear. Though hopeful, this approach—culminating in seething voices filing through a “kindness factory” to emerge all smiles—feels unsettlingly facile against such relentless, unexplained self-criticism. The “little” voice looms frighteningly large; neither the text’s Comic Sans–esque typeface nor Dolby’s pastel-hued, cartoonish illustrations soften its nasty, eager grin or the exhaustion shadowing the child’s eyes.

Readers struggling with low self-esteem might find coping strategies here, but caregivers will want to add another: asking an adult for help. (Picture book. 6-9)

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview