Two additional Starred Reviews! The first in Kirkus Reviews for Don’t Spill the Milk and the second in Publishers’ Weekly for Sex & Violence. Full reviews below.
Don’t Spill the Milk
Penda, a young Fulani girl from Niger, takes a long journey by herself to bring her shepherd father a nourishing bowl of milk.
She travels through sand dunes, crosses a river, walks through the plains and treks up a mountain. She sees camels, desert jinns (are they imaginary?), masked dancers and the unusual pale giraffes of West Africa. She endures a smelly fishing boat. She admonishes herself not to spill a drop, telling herself, “Don’t shiver, don’t quiver, don’t fall in the river, girl.” That’s why it’s so sad when a final accident of fate upsets her plans for a successful end to her task, but her wise father has a different perspective. In an author’s note, Davies explains that he has visited the region where the book is set from his home in Burkina Faso. He has worked with the artist in the past and wanted to give him an opportunity to picture the area’s diverse geography. The intensity of the colors used in these gouache paintings will keep eyes riveted to the pages. The naïve, flattened style emphasizes the colorful clothing, and a double-page spread in which Penda walks through a mass dance is quite striking.
A satisfying story, perfect for reading aloud, set in a part of Africa that is rarely shown in children’s books. (Picture book. 4-7)
Sex & Violence
As the title suggests, debut author Mesrobian takes aim at big topics, but what she’s most interested in is the aftermath. Used to being the new guy, 17-year-old Evan may not be much at making friends, but he’s great at finding “left-of-normal” girls to sleep with. When he gets involved with Colette, who’s been labeled a slut by her ex—Evan’s jockish jerk of a boarding school roommate—things go very wrong. Colette is raped, and Evan is badly beaten, which makes his workaholic father finally pay attention. The two move to a lakeside Minnesota town, where Evan is all but forced to engage with a crew of recent high school graduates, when he’d rather lock himself in his room all summer. As Evan heals physically and mentally, he has ample time to consider the part of himself he calls “Dirtbag Evan” and reevaluate his attitudes toward girls and sex. By focusing on Evan, Mesrobian talks about hookup culture in a way that is character-based, not agenda-driven, and showcases a teenager who grows and changes without becoming unrecognizable or saintly. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)