BOOKS

What Is a Child?

What Is a Child? tr. from Italian by Anna Bennett. illus. by Beatrice Alemagna. 36p. Tate. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781849764124.
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K-Gr 3-There's a kind of conspiratorial tone to this wink-wink paean to children and childhood. Whether this Italian import is actually meant to be savored or completely understood by child audiences is another matter. While many young readers/listeners may comprehend and appreciate the thoughtful musings and references herein, the philosophical commentaries seem more nostalgic for adults than a story to capture young children's interest for long, despite the truthfulness of the comments. For example, "Children are like sponges. They soak everything in: bad moods, bad ideas, and other people's fears. They seem to forget, but then everything comes out again in the school bag, or under the covers, or in front of a book." Moreover, language purists may object to the occasional use of the singular "a child" in conjunction with the plural pronoun "they." In addition, the stylized illustrations, while colorful and childlike and depicting an assortment of diverse, multicultural tykes, won't be everyone's cup of tea: some will strike viewers as whimsical or comical, while others will seem rather bizarre.
VERDICT Worthwhile trying it with young audiences to stimulate conversations between adults and youngsters, but more likely to be enjoyed by their elders. An additional read-aloud for large public collections.-Carol Goldman, Queens Library, NY

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