Review: Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

sweetest kulu

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

Kulu has just been born and is being welcomed by the world.  Kulu is Inuit and as the world comes to welcome the baby, traditional Inuit beliefs are shown in the story.  It is the Arctic summer, so the first to welcome Kulu is Smiling Sun, who stays bright all through the night.  The Wind arrives and teaches Kulu the importance of listening closely.  Then the animals start arriving.  These are not your normal animals, but ones that are specifically from the Arctic and of importance to the Inuit.  With each animal comes a blessing:  the Snow Bunting reminds Kulu to always believe in himself, Fox tells Kulu to get out of bed as soon as you wake and to help anyone who needs it.  The entire book sings with a connection to nature, to this specific region of the earth, and for the love of a baby.

Kalluk, who is an Inuit throat singer, has beautifully captured the values of her people in this picture book.  It is done so organically and naturally that many will not realize that this is more than a sweet picture book.  The fact that it also weaves in traditions and values of the Inuit makes the book all the more special and noteworthy.  Kalluk writes very lyrically, creating moments for each of the animals that are unique to them which keeps the book from becoming repetitious.

The illustrations have a lovely cartoon quality to them, one can almost see them leaping to life from the page.  The large animals dwarf little Kulu by their bulk, but the tenderness they all feel for this tiny baby shines on the page.  There is a respect between human and animal that is warm and tangible too.

A gorgeous and meaningful book welcoming a baby to the world, this picture book is unique and special.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from ARC received from Inhabit and Myrick Marketing.

Review: And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst

and two boys booed

And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

From the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day comes a new book all about overcoming stage fright.  A boy is performing in a talent show and knows that he is ready to sing his song because he’s been practicing and practicing it.  Plus, he also has on his lucky blue books and his pants with lots of pockets.  He is very confident until the other five children start performing their acts.  Then his mood changes, even though he still says that is he fine.  The story uses repetition that mirrors the child’s internal dialogue about his lucky pants, the pockets, and how much he has practiced, adding another line about each child’s performance and it all leading up to his.  When his turn finally comes, he is almost unable to stand up, much alone sing and two boys boo him from the crowd.  But in a final burst of determination, the boy stands and his brain starts to make sense again, and he sings.  And two boys booed, but the rest of the children cheered!

Viorst takes a universal fear of both children and adults and turns it into a very engaging picture book.  I love the modern setting of the book paired with the timeless use of a story that repeats again and again, building through the story.  It matches the nerves that the boy is feeling and creates a wonderful tension as each new person gets up to perform.  Adding in the booing children is brilliant, because that is what most of us fear, the negative reaction of the crowd.  But in the book that happens, the boy faces it and continues his performance. 

Blackall’s illustrations clearly show the boy’s emotions even as he bravely continues to repeat to himself that it is all OK.  He looks directly at the reader, conveying his surprise at feeling nervous and pulling his striped shirt higher and higher in an attempt to hide.  Blackall has incorporated a lift-the-flap component into her illustrations allowing us to peek into the boy’s pocket and at the end of the book the effect is used to propel the entire story forward in a creative way.

A smart and very human picture book about performance, nervousness and overcoming it all.  This would be a perfect book to share with children about to do a show.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.