3 out of 4 stars
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Children are naturally inquisitive; The Little Explorers taps into that trait. This vibrantly illustrated storybook is about four classmates who share the same wonders about the world and the universe.
Chris, Melissa, Sue, and Jose come from different backgrounds and ethnicities—but that doesn’t keep them from being the best of friends. These “Little Explorers”—as they call themselves—are constantly busy; whether it’s tending to the small class garden, talking about the news, or making plans for fifth grade.
One day, the sky changed color, and the sun hid behind the clouds. Their teacher quickly ushered everyone back to their seats. What was happening outside? Why did the weather change? These are just some questions the “Little Explorers” had about the creation around them.
Written by Emanuel Shorten EL Sr., this narrative isn’t what I expected; the blurb suggested something about “the universe that the Creator made”—I assumed it pertained to religion, but it didn’t. It could be that the author was reaching for a wider audience, without picking any particular religion; it allows for subjective interpretation which is a positive point. Readers who consider themselves spiritual might appreciate this side of the book.
The ethnic diversity of the young cast is another positive aspect; it shows in the plotline and Zain Ali’s illustrations. Ali gives each character their unique features, such as skin tone and hair texture. However, the message that friendship supersedes any nationality is a more profound aspect.
Shorten’s book explicitly encourages children to question the world around them; no subject is out of bounds for his little explorers—nature, climate, even the latest news. It ties into the concept of "creation by the Creator"; for those sensitive about this idea, Shorten mentions it outside of the plotline.
Still, some areas could use improvement, namely the plot and the formatting. The text formatting was inconsistent; sometimes, it would be in a standard paragraph, other times in a text box. The callout bubbles were a space-saving add-on but didn't always point to the correct person.
While the plotline met the aim of the book, the resolution was unclear and incomplete. The little explorers have many interesting questions that remained unanswered at the end—leaving the reader with a cliffhanger.
As a result, I rate this 3 out of 4 stars. The illustrations and the positive message do not merit a lower rating. I recommend it to anyone searching for a story with a friendship theme. Also, those wanting a school-themed story might enjoy it. Those looking for a straightforward ending might want to pass this book.
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