BronxShapes and BronxTones, written and photographed by Alex Rivera, Kokila (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780593110812 and 9780593110782, 2020
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Format: Board books
What did you like about the book? In these great, sturdy board books, very young children can look at common shapes and colors, using vivid photographs that Rivera has taken in the Bronx. Further adding to the appeal — the books are bilingual in English and Spanish. In Shapes, Rivera asks “How many shapes do you see on our block?” in English and Spanish opposite a woman strolling past a tiled, red wall. “Each tile on the wall makes a square [with “square” appearing in a bold red font]. The photos are sophisticated and beautiful but also unexpected. The octagon is the bright blue and yellow umbrella opened over a hot dog cart and seen from above. Similarly, the green oval of the neighborhood park is also an aerial shot. For Tones, we meet children who live in the Bronx, for example, Bruckner wearing an orange tie or Bryant in a blue hat. Again, the names of the colors pop off the page in bold, correspondingly hued text. Lest we mistakenly assume that the Bronx is all city streets and sidewalks, a blooming echinacea faces the page that reads “Our neighborhood is beautiful like a pink flower.” All the subjects in the photos are people of color.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The Shapes photo pages are clean and unfussy, but in the Tones, pictures, Rivera has superimposed a template over the subject that looks like an old-fashioned Poloroid and carries a number and his logo (THE BRONXER). I don’t know what the intent was, but I far preferred the uncluttered look of Shapes.
To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone looking for baby books with photos, especially of everyday life. Although lots of baby books feature cute illustrations, my own kids always loved photographs and I think these are really terrific looking. The books are well made with very high quality reproductions and look like they would hold up to heavy usage. The English / Spanish duality makes them great as bilingual books or for teaching Spanish.
Who should buy this book? Preschools and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it? Board book area
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes. A notable new addition to the genre!
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: October 29, 2020