Reviews provided by Syndetics
School Library Journal Review
This highly original collage of words and pictures by and about Eric Carle echoes Carle's artistic style, hailed by one contributor for its "powerful simplicity. . . clear shapes. . . bold colors. . . and the stories that teach without being didactic." Central to the book are Carle's autobiography, a reprint of his 1990 Library of Congress speech, and his art-a photo essay, book illustrations, and an international bibliography. Other voices add shading. A brief introduction, for example, in which Carle's American editor recounts their working relationship, provides critical context. His German editor examines the dramatic elements in Carle's stories. And a Japanese art curator speaks of colors "far beyond any human sense of color." Like Carle's books for children, the inviting page design encourages careful consideration of what he calls his "dabs of color"-the personal and professional influences upon artistic style. The book will engage adolescents and adults already familiar with Carle's work, but it is especially suited to professionals interested in the origins of creativity.-Sue Burgess, Framingham (MA) State College (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Carle is one of the most beloved illustrators of children's books. This retrospective is more than just an appreciation of his art, however. The book also contains an insightful autobiography illustrated with personal photographs, an anecdotal essay by his longtime editor, a photographic essay on how Carle creates his collages, and writings by Carle and his colleagues. Still, it is the artwork in the oversize volume that seizes the imagination. More than 60 of his full-color collage pictures are handsomely reproduced and serve as a statement of Carle's impressive talent. --Ilene Cooper
Horn Book Review
(Preschool, Younger) An original fable tells the story of the first autumn and the first snow. Taking place long ago when Mother Nature was a little girl, the story introduces personifications of Summer and Winter and wise old Aunt Arctica (a polar bear who practices conflict resolution). One year, summer-loving Mother Nature stops Winter from coming by painting the leaves bright colors and wearing a scary mask. But when Winter stays away, everything becomes overgrown. The next year, on the advice of Aunt Arctica, Winter tries a gentler approach, singing a lullaby that sends the leaves dancing to the ground and forming a blanket of soft crystals: the first snow. Christiana's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations resemble Arthur Rackham's drawings in design and variety of line. Christiana, however, shows a much softer touch and a more innocent approach to his subjects. The concept of Mother Nature as a child is intriguing and should be appealing to preschoolers, but both illustrations and text demonstrate a reach of metaphor that may limit the book to an older picture book audience. lolly robinson Cor Hazelaar Zoo Dreams g; illus. by the author (Preschool) After closing time, the zookeepers circulate through the zoo to make sure that the animals have all settled down for the night. The list of animals is lively and varied: snow monkeys "pile together in groups of family and friends"; the polar bear "curls up like a big cat." When the zookeepers finish their rounds, they go home, get in bed, and go to sleep themselves, "to dream zoo dreams." Although this hasn't the imagination of Peggy Rathmann's Goodnight, Gorilla, the pattern of the story is comfortably predictable, and the myriad details give accurate information about animal sleeping habits. Hazelaar uses a muted palette of grays, greens, and browns and flat, simple shapes that beautifully convey the impression of dusk at the zoo. The simple style matches the text, and the colors give a sense both of mystery and calm to the pages. m.v.k. Shirley Hughes Enchantment in the Garden g; illus. by the author (Younger, Intermediate) In a departure from her vigorous, small-stage domestic stories (the Alfie and Annie Rose books, the Tales of Trotter Street series), Hughes here tells a sweeping if sentimental fantasy of a poor little rich girl and her only friend, a statue of a boy sea-god who comes to life. The story is very long, and the heroine is too prim and serious to be entirely sympathetic (though there's a promise of a less inhibited future). The real problem, however, is that the art-light-filled, sumptuous invocations of the lush Italian countryside-is so spectacular that the story is almost entirely overwhelmed. A book for readers who enjoy the more romantic fairy tales. m.v.p. Milly Lee Nim and the War Effort g; illus. by Yangsook Choi (Intermediate) As Sherry Garland did with a Vietnamese-American family in The Lotus Seed, Milly Lee makes use of a minor but telling incident to highlight the cultural traditions and mores of a Chinese-American family. A resident of San Francisco's Chinatown during World War II, Nim has been diligently collecting newspapers, determined to win first prize in her school paper drive. On the final day, she is tied with one other student, Garland Stephenson, a sneaky, obdurate boy who not only runs off with a stack of newspapers her aunt had left for Nim but steals the current day's papers waiting outside a local shop. When Nim confronts him, he shouts that it will be an American who wins the contest, "not some Chinese smarty-pants." Instead of folding, Nim grows more determined. She does indeed best Garland, though in the process she incurs her grandfather's wrath and is subject to some stern lessons about family honor and responsibility. Characterizations are two-dimensional, but Nim's pluckiness, her patriotism, and her clever solution in finding a way to win the paper drive make for an engaging tale. For many readers, however, special interest will lie in the particulars of Chinese-American culture revealed. In one scene, grandfather sends Nim upstairs to the hall of ancestors for a period of reflection when she has arrived home late. The picture of her sitting in a stiff-backed chair placed up against a row of somber-faced portraits lining the wall describes better than any words could the importance of living up to family expectations. The spacious, dignified, somewhat stark illustrations complement the detail and length of the text, quietly conveying period and mood. n.v. Richard McGuire What's Wrong with This Book? g; illus. by the author (Younger) Like Macaulay in Black and White or Scieszka and Smith in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (and even harkening back to Charlip and Joyner's Thirteen), Richard McGuire experiments with storytelling and bookmaking conventions in creating this innovative curiosity. Using a clown as the connective element throughout, McGuire plays with cutouts to create optical illusions. What seems to be a face painted onto a circle on one page, for example, turns out to be a cutout hole that becomes a crying baby's open mouth when the page is turned. Other circles are deceptively shaded to appear as though they too might be cutouts. A playful rhymed text carries the clown from one spread to the next: "So the story has holes. Well what can I say? It makes the book better to look through that way." Invited to look closely, readers will notice, though probably not at first glance, that five acrobatic clowns each have an extra torso; that shadow pictures are not the animals they seem to be when the page is turned, and that a peaceful summer landscape is a surrealistic collage of such improbable images as a walking tree, an ice-skating bird, and a man sitting on a rock with a tree branch growing in one ear and out the other. This is one of three spreads in which McGuire adds clip art, photo collage, and textured paper to his usual style of geometric shapes, sweeping curves, and flat areas of color. What's wrong with this book? Nothing that a fine sense of the absurd won't cure. n.v. H Lynn Reiser Best Friends Think Alike g; illus. by the author (Preschool) Parallel lines do meet as best friends Beryl and Ruby each prepare for a play date in the park. Says Ruby, on the top half of a double-page spread, "I am thinking. I am thinking of a game to play in the park with Beryl." Says Beryl, down below, "I am thinking. I am thinking of a game to play in the park with Ruby." Happily, they are both thinking about playing horse and rider; not so happily, they are each also thinking that "I will be the horse." This collision of desire, to which Reiser gives resonant typographic as well as illustrative life, is resolved when the friends find the same solution: "You can be a horse and a rider-and you can be a horse and a rider. It's the same game!" The patterns, echoes, and repetitions in the text would do Gertrude Stein proud, but Reiser keeps confusion to a minimum by putting Ruby's thoughts and words in red, and Beryl's in blue. Design throughout is very much part of the story: the girls, drawn in simple marker sketches, face off and reach out from the outer margins to the middle, and their rapprochement is celebrated with a border-busting charge of horse and rider and horse and rider across the page, "Together!" Even the endpapers mimic the action, with red vertical lines and blue horizontals coming together for a purply plaid. Although you might need to lend some advice about how to read this book (heck, you might need some advice yourself), pre-schoolers should appreciate this acknowledgment of their rituals of negotiation-how to share without giving an inch. r.s. Phyllis Root The Hungry Monster g; illus. by Sue Heap (Preschool) "HUNGRY!" roars the monster, as it steps off the rocket ship. "YUM!" says the monster, when it sees a daisy; then, "YUCK!" after it eats it. "REALLY HUNGRY!" it exclaims to a rock; then "YUM!" and "YUCK!" again, until the rhythmic repetition of its limited vocabulary escalates to a climatic, "REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HUNGRY!" when it sees a girl eating a banana. "YIKES!" says the girl. "Have a banana"-which the monster eats, "peel and all." In-the-know preschoolers will recognize this monster (in earthly terms) as a baby who sticks everything it sees into its mouth, and will delight in its baby-like blunders. Bold watercolors parallel the text's sophisticated simplicity and are marked by distinctive color combinations that amplify the chubby, blue-haired, round-eyed, two-toothed monster's unaffected charm. marilyn bousquin Naturi Thomas Uh-oh! It's Mama's Birthday! g; illus. by Keinyo White (Preschool) Jason is all set to splurge with his weekly one-dollar allowance when he discovers that it's his mother's birthday, and, good lad, sets out to buy her a gift. He tries to buy her a dress (and discovers it costs too much money); he gets her the candy she likes (and then eats it); he buys her a balloon (only to see it sail off into the sky). But when the downcast boy comes home, he discovers he can still give his mother the present she wants most-a hug. Nothing fancy here, but enough real-life trials and devotion, illustrated by a new artist who could be someone to watch. White's acrylic paintings of this African-American family are as straightforward as the text: simple planes and shadows of color applied thinly, allowing the texture of the canvas to show through, the expres-sive brushwork giving warmth to the small dilemma and happy resolution. r.s. Fiction Robert Cormier Tenderness g (Older) In juxtaposing a sexually precocious, obsessive runaway and a psycho-pathic murderer, each seeking a kind of tenderness, Robert Cormier creates a lurid, violent, grating world not fit for the tender-hearted. Lori Cranston is fifteen years old. Her father is dead, and her mother's an alcoholic. When she finds herself in a caressing embrace with her mother's latest boyfriend, she leaves home to protect her mom. She also leaves home to fulfill her obsession with Throb, lead singer in a heavy metal band whose voice fills her ears and the inside of her head: "I got fixated on him, staring at the black cave and knowing that I had to press my lips against his lips and put my tongue through that hole in his mouth." No sooner has she satisfied this obsession than she becomes fixated on Eric Poole, a psychopathic serial killer who has murdered his mother, stepfather, and three teenage girls whom he sexually assaulted after strangling. While tenderness for Lori equals gentleness, tenderness for Eric is the ecstasy he feels as he murders his teenage victims. Lori's tenderness finally transforms Eric, but it leads to her demise and his undoing. The style is vintage Cormier: short pithy sentences and bends in the text that take the reader along startling paths. The author is a master of irony, but the basic premise-that there will be a serious exploration of tenderness-is unfulfilled, and the characterization of Lori (with her bizarre compulsions, and contradictions of naiveté and savvy, morality and immorality) stretches credulity. It's a jolting, unsettling novel, lacking the thematic depth of Cormier at his best, but still suspenseful and chilling. barbara harrison Peter Dickinson The Lion Tamer's Daughter and Other Stories g (Intermediate, Older) Although the four stories in this odd volume range in length and format from short story to short novel, they all share the same thematic construction: characters who move across worlds to influence someone in another place or time. In "The Spring," eleven-year-old Derek has always felt out of place in his family, as though he was never meant to be born. One night, he is drawn to a mysterious spring, from whose depths he pulls out a boy. The next morning, the two wake up as twins, with no memory of any previous life. When they return to the same spring a year later, Derek follows his twin into the water, and as he disappears, his family's memory of him is instantaneously erased, recalling in startling fashion the story's beginning. Both "Touch and Go" and "Checkers" concern ghosts who travel through time to rescue strangers. The title story is the longest and strongest. Shortly after the narrator, Keith, moves to Scotland, he spies a girl on the street who looks just like his best friend back home in England. What's more, she answers to a form of the same name, Melanie, and ensuing conversations convince them that the two girls are connected in some strange way. The obvious conclusion would be that they are twins, but both girls insist that they in fact are two physical forms of the same person. The story becomes a lot more complicated, but Dickinson, amazingly enough, pulls it all off. The two girls are similar but have distinct personae, and Keith displays the right mixture of incredulity and curiosity to speak for the reader. Complex and unsettling, the stories are above all a testament to the author's potent imagination. n.v. H Patricia Reilly Giff Lily's Crossing g (Intermediate) Even without the dedication ("for Jim, and for the people I loved in St. Albans and Rockaway"), time and place in this World War II homefront novel are evoked with an intensity that suggests an autobiographical story. Motherless Lily Mollahan is looking forward to a summer in the family's cottage, but the war shatters all her dreams: her beloved father has enlisted; her best friend is moving away; and Albert, a seemingly unfriendly war refugee from Hungary, intrudes on her private space. To complicate matters, Lily is fond of enhancing her importance or escaping retribution with facile lies. This habit nearly causes a tragedy when she carelessly permits Albert to believe that he can row out to the passing troop ships, secure passage, and search for his sister, who was left behind in France. The plot rises to the climactic moment when Albert attempts his dangerous quest, but it is in its progressive unfolding that Lily develops a deeper insight into the changes that the war has made in her insulated world. Details such as snatches of popular songs, movie titles, and blackout precautions are woven with great effect into a realistic story of ordinary people who must cope with events beyond their comprehension. m.m.b. Adele Griffin Rainy Season (Intermediate) Twelve-year-old Lane lives with her brother and her parents on a military base in Panama in 1977, during the waning days of U.S. control over the canal. Lane suffers panic attacks when any family member is out of sight longer than expected. Charlie, a year younger, steals, bullies, and engages in dangerous behavior that his parents either ignore or cover up. The parents are, in fact, curiously uninvolved in their children's lives. Clearly, all is not well with this family. Secrets are hinted at: Lane fills a journal with unmailed letters to an unidentified Emily back in the States; there are frequent allusions to a serious car accident. The reader doesn't learn until the last few pages that Emily was Lane's older sister and was killed in this accident. The children's mother suffered a nervous breakdown, and shortly thereafter all evidence of Emily's existence was removed from the home, and no one has been allowed to speak of her since. After a climactic incident in which Charlie is severely injured, Lane breaks the rule and searches out a box where all photographs of Emily had been hidden, finding comfort at last in the luxury of unrepressed memories. A writer of lesser talent could have made a blubbery tearjerker of such a scenario, but the tone is restrained and chilling. The actions of Charlie, Lane, and their friends border on the bizarre, but don't go over the edge. And the Panama setting, with its atmosphere of American colonialism, adds a faint aura of decadence to the narrative. Relations between the military families, the "Zonians" (American civilians who work for the Pan-Canal Company), and the native Panamanians are tense. The Zonians speak Spanish only if they absolutely have to, as if they were "trying to insult the words while they speak them." The Americans rarely venture outside the zone area where the locals beg for money, shoot at MPs, and "think they own the country, just cause they were here first." An appended author's note provides further historical and political perspective. n.v. Leslie Howarth The Pits (Intermediate) Like MapHead and Weather Eye, Howarth's third fantasy explores themes of identity, particularly the weighty choices adolescents make as they approach adulthood. When a world-renowned archaeologist and his daughter, Anna Mae, uncover the well-preserved body of a Stone Age iceman, they unknowingly also find the ghost of Broddy Brodson, a contemporary of the iceman, who narrates the novel. Brod's observations of Anna Mae's strained relationship with her parents and his musings about his own experiences draw a connection between today's teenagers and adolescents of the far-distant past. In 7650 b.c., a rival horde's claim on the Axes' traditional winter hangout in the sandpits sparks gang skirmishes that test Brod's loyalty. The deaths of his father-the horde drunk-and his invalid mother leave Brod in sole charge of his three little sisters. Stunned by grief, burdened with guilt, and overwhelmed by his mixed feelings about his family, Brod learns the value of embracing one's destiny as he faces choices that will determine the course of the rest of his life. Although the novel addresses weighty topics, a heavy sprinkling of humor and a casual narrative style make the book very easy to read. Once again, Howarth has written an unusual fantasy with startling impact. anne deifendeifer Rodger Larson What I Know Now g (Older) Fourteen-year-old Dave finds that his crush on the handsome gardener Gene means-well, we don't know just what it does mean, which is one of the charms of this leisurely, romantic coming-of-age story set in 1950s California ranch country. When Dave's parents split up, he and his mother leave the ranch to live in town; in the spirit of her newly won independence, she decides to landscape the property into a glorious garden. Dave is drawn into Gene's intriguing botanical world of Quercus lobata and Davidia involucrata, and grows himself as Gene introduces him to Verdi, pizza, and the intoxication of beat-era San Francisco. Although there is a scene of sexual exploration between Dave and his older brother, and a hint of some kind of intimate physicality between Dave and his father, the real sensuality of the book comes from Dave's never-expressed longings for Gene, although he doesn't realize that Gene is himself gay until the end of the book, after Gene has moved on. While some overlong descriptive passages about gardening occasionally take the focus off the emotional landscape we're really interested in, this first novel is a refreshing change from the more didactic novels about gay teens coming out: as worthy and necessary as those books are, this one finds an equally valid truth in uncertainty, and subtly meshes the search for identity with the search for love. r.s. Chris Lynch Political Timber (Older) Obsessed with his girlfriend, Sweaty Betty, Gordon Foley pays only token attention to his grandfather's directive that he, a high-school senior, run for mayor. Da, himself the former mayor in the grand old Irish tradition of a James Michael Curley, has regretfully left his mayoral duties for a jail cell. In return for Gordie's carrying on the family political dynasty, Da has granted him the use of his magnificent 1963 Studebaker Hawk. Gordie views the scheme as a slight wrinkle (although the car is a definite plus) in an otherwise golden senior year-at least until the campaign begins. Fresh, funny, and at times devastatingly frank, the characterization plays out well, starting from what we suspect may just be stereotypes and moving into reality, not only for Gordie and Da but for minor folks as well. The plot is credible and particularly fitting in its conclusion (ironic or not; you be the judge). Altogether the book is a great read that offers some discussion fodder as well. e.s.w. Margaret Mahy The Five Sisters; illus. by Patricia MacCarthy (Intermediate) Word wizard Margaret Mahy transforms the potentially bathetic story of five cut-out dolls into a paean to the power of paper and the magic of story ("paper has all the stories in the world hidden in it"). To while away a hot summer day, Sally's Nana cuts out a chain of paper dolls and, before a bird carries them off, manages to draw in the face and dress of the first girl. Sally is disheartened at their loss, promising never to forget them-and she hasn't, when, years later, they reemerge in grown Sally's attic. Between loss and recovery, all five dolls receive faces and personalities as they mystically interact with their individual human creators, who both empower them and are themselves empowered. Breeze, who grows up to be a renowned artist, feels inspired to paint forever when she carefully colors in the second doll; Simon, later a successful songwriter, has a similar "strange feeling" to create songs when, as a romantic adolescent, he breathes soul into the third doll, giving her a tear and assuring her a lifetime of sadness. The tale is filled with rather overt wisdom about the nature of change as a constant, about searching and learning, about laughter and tears. As ever, Mahy's inventive language, alive with sparkling imagery and spirited wordplay, keeps things from ever being too serious. Caught in the treetops, the first sister, Alpha, concedes to her paper siblings that "we might have to hang around here for a while." And Mahy has fun playing with the notion of holding on and letting go; after all, the five sisters are hand-joined in their lifetime dance together. Illustrator Patricia MacCarthy captures the story's mysterious wonder in her expressive black-and-white pencil drawings, which bring to life the flat reality of the sisters and the rounded tangibility of the world they encounter. susan p. bloom Bel Mooney The Voices of Silence g (Intermediate) A familiar tale seems to be developing when thirteen-year-old Flora forsakes her best friend Alys for the blandishments of a friendly new classmate, Daniel-but this story takes place in 1989 Romania, and both Alys and Daniel have secrets. In a novel that effectively blends intro-spection with suspense, the author paints a picture of a country locked in secrets-between the government and its citizens, between friends, among families: "You want to feel your parents like their life, just in case it is your fault that they don't.." Betrayals (or seeming betrayals) follow thick and fast after Flora discovers that her father is planning to escape to Germany, and she is inevitably, if somewhat formulaically, caught up in the events of the revolution. This is romantic in story but realistically grim in setting, and Flora is a credible nexus for the dramatic events. r.s. Beverley Naidoo No Turning Back: A Novel of South Africa (Intermediate) Charged with a rhythm that begins beating on the first page and carries through until the last, Naidoo's novel is a can't-put-it-down account of an impoverished South African boy. Readers will feel transported to the streets of Johannesburg with twelve-year-old Sipho, who has run away from his abusive stepfather and powerless, pregnant mother. After being "adopted" by a gang of boys living on the streets, Sipho learns about survival-earning change at supermarkets under the hot sun of the day, battling formidable nights outside, facing the temptation to sniff glue to combat the cold and misery. After living temporarily with an affluent white family (capable of prejudice and generosity, in turns), Sipho returns to the streets, eventually ending up in a nurturing shelter where he has the chance to go to school. Despite the book's heavy-handed messages, it is impossible not to empathize with Sipho, whose life is based on actual stories of homeless youth in Johannesburg. amy chamberlain Lensey Namioka Den of the White Fox g (Intermediate, Older) The masterless samurai warriors Zenta and Matsuzo are wandering again, and as per usual in this consistent series set in medieval Japan (see also Namioka's Island of Ogres), they find equal measures of swordplay and intrigue. In the foggy valley of the White Fox the young men en-counter many mysteries, including an enigmatic woman, a gang of fox-masked boys, and a martial art new to the samurai-jujitsu-that rewards cunning over strength, timing over weapons. The sense of place is strong but not belabored, enhancing rather than impeding the action. Zenta and Matsuzo are approachable variants on Batman and Robin who could pleasurably surprise more than a few reluctant readers. r.s. Zilpha Keatley Snyder The Gypsy Game (Intermediate) It's been thirty years since the publication of Snyder's Newbery Honor book The Egypt Game, but the sequel picks up right where the first left off; and for April, Melanie, and the others, not a second has passed. The sequel features Snyder's familiar cliffhanger chapter endings, with the suspense this time involving Toby and the threat of an impending custody battle, prompting him to run away. Readers who thrilled to the magic and mystery of the costumes, ceremonies, and pharaohs' curses in The Egypt Game will find themselves drawn to and intrigued by the jewelry, colorful clothes, and fortune-telling in this adventure. As might be expected, though, the friends unearth the less romantic facts about Gypsies, too; through the girls' research, they eventually learn the history of persecution. Depressed by these facts, the kids lose their interest in the Gypsy Game, and the book ends-nineties style-with the group planning how to help the homeless people who befriended Toby when he ran away. Themes from The Egypt Game-ethical dilemmas, blaming the innocent, deceptive appearances-reemerge here, and while the sequel is less well constructed and more meandering than the first book (and does not stand on its own), it will nevertheless be of interest to fans of the first book. jennifer m. brabander Jerry Spinelli The Library Card (Intermediate) A library card is the magical object common to each of these four stories in which a budding street thug, a television addict, a homeless orphan, and a lonely girl are all transformed by the power and the possibilities that await them within the walls of the public library. Each of the characters comes to the library reluctantly or by accident. In the first story, twelve-year-old Mongoose discovers a locust shell clinging to a tree as he and his partner-in-crime, Weasel, are spray-painting the town with their new secret names. Driven by curiosity about the beady-eyed bug, Mongoose heads for the library to find out more and, drawn deeper and deeper into the world of knowledge, loses interest in his former, empty activities. In the second story, Brenda, a television addict, goes to the library as an act of desperation during the week of the Great Television Turn-off and is shocked into taking steps to discover who she is. The third story features homeless, orphaned Sonseray, who enters the library to escape the oppressive heat and discovers a book his mother had often read aloud to him when he was young-and for a few magical moments, it seems he has a mother again. In the last story, friendless, uprooted April Mendez meets and eventually befriends a suicidal, razorblade-carrying high-school girl who is apparently hijacking a bookmobile. Spinelli's characters are unusual and memorable; his writing both humorous and convincing. Reluctant middle-school readers, hearing these stories read aloud or reading them on their own, are likely to identify with these four characters and be easily persuaded that a plain blue library card could indeed contain all the magic necessary to find an identity, a mother, a friend, or a future. joan hamilton Folklore Tomie dePaola Days of the Blackbird: A Tale of Northern Italy g; illus. by the author (Younger) Human goodness is rewarded by animal faithfulness in the gentle tale dePaola spins to explain an adage from the Piedmont area of Italy: why the last, coldest days of January are called the Days of the Blackbird. A prosperous duke and his beloved daughter spend each afternoon listening to a patient, enduring white dove's birdsong in the courtyard of their fine house. One year, during the coldest of winters, the Duca Gennaro falls seriously ill; he is sustained only by the dove's birdsong, with its promise of spring. As the cold deepens, the dove continues singing, but takes refuge in the chimney, where it is warm. When the dove emerges, she is soot-black, and "her feathers were never white again." The simple story becomes quite luscious in dePaola's paintings, framed by varied arched blocks that echo the shapes of doors and windows in the houses of the mountainous village. His characteristic, softly rounded figures painted in pretty tones are highlighted on luminous pages with mottled background tones laid down in the manner of frescoes. Even the bleak winter is shot with green and gold and peach as the reassuring tale plays out to its predictable end. If it's all a bit too good to be true, it's also too elegant to be missed. m.a.b. Mirra Ginsburg Clay Boy g; illus. by Jos. A. Smith (Preschool) Ginsburg tells a Russian version of the well-known folktale about a childless couple who make themselves a boy of clay, who then comes alive and ungratefully devours the entire surrounding population. The illustrations depict a large, lumpy, almost featureless clay boy, mostly mouth, who grows and grows, gulping down the old man and his wife, all the domestic animals, the neighbors, and a peasant with a horse and wagon, until he finally meets a crafty goat. The goat, of course, butts him in the belly and smashes him to pieces-he is, after all, only clay-and all the swallowed ones emerge none the worse for having been eaten. A celebration ensues featuring dancing and gratitude to the goat. Some of the pictures of the clay boy looking particularly monstrous (even in his bright red rompers) as he gobbles might limit use with the very youngest children, but otherwise the large and strikingly simple illustrations make the tale an excellent story hour selection. a.a.f. Lucía M. González, Reteller Señor Cat's Romance and Other Favorite Stories from Latin America g; illus. by Lulu Delacre (Younger) The six stories in this bountifully illustrated collection are all familiar to the author from her own childhood in Cuba, and she tells them all with style and humor. Juan Bobo is more foolish than ever; the trickster Tío Conejo, or Uncle Rabbit, is clever enough to avoid the tiger's jaws; Medio-Pollito comes to his just end when he ignores his fellows in favor of the king. The retellings are peppered with Spanish words, all of which are easily understood through context, and the expressive dialogue and rhythms of the text are well suited for reading aloud. Each story is followed by a short glossary and an author's note with information on the tale's origins and its variants. As she did with The Bossy Gallito, Delacre enhances the tales with her vivid, sprightly paintings. The illustrations contain many regional details, including patterned borders that recall the wrought-iron railings found on houses throughout Latin America. m.v.k. Anna Vojtech and Philemon Sturges, Retellers Marushka and the Month Brothers; illus. by Anna Vojtech (Younger) Illustrator Vojtech has set the familiar folktale (the story of the mistreated stepsister who, forced out into the snow to fetch impossibly unseasonable items, is aided by the mysterious Month Brothers) in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia. The distinct placement helps to set it apart from Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and Margot Tomes's definitive Little Sister and the Month Brothers. In addition, the de Regniers/Tomes version was meant for a slightly younger audience, with Little Sister portrayed as a child and with the liberal use of small vignettes scattered throughout the pages. Twenty years later, Vojtech's delicate watercolor illustrations, somewhat Nonny Hogrogian-ish, of the fascinating Month Brothers, the cozy hut, and the glorious mountains, give a more distinctly European peasant flavor to the tale and make it a worthy companion to an old favorite. a.a.f. David Wisniewski Golem; illus. by the author (Younger) A monumental story of good and evil-and the gray areas in between-receives a dramatic presentation through Wisniewski's intricately cut colored-paper collage. The story takes place in sixteenth-century Prague, where Jews are being attacked mercilessly following the general acceptance of the "Blood Lie," a rumor that Jews are making their Passover bread from flour, water, and the blood of Christian children. To protect his people, Rabbi Loew decides to invoke the Golem, a giant made of clay. After creating the giant, the rabbi places the word emet (truth) on Golem's forehead. Every night Golem leaves the walled Ghetto, catching the men planting false evidence of the Blood Lie, and delivering them to the authorities. When Golem grows larger and more violent, killing many of his enemies, the emperor guarantees the Jews' safety if the rabbi will destroy Golem. Golem tries to hold on to his animated state, but the rabbi erases the first letter from the word on his forehead, changing emet (truth) to met (death), and Golem collapses into a mound of clay. Despite his violence, Golem is a sympathetic character; like King Kong or the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (which this legend may have influenced), Golem is young and innocent, with a childlike ability to love and trust. The crisply cut colored-paper illustrations have been painstakingly created to show both small details and large landscapes. At times, some fussy detailing can distract the eye away from the main action, but not enough to dilute the power of the central character or the story. An extensive note provides origins and variations of the legend. lolly robinson Laurence Yep The Khan's Daughter g; illus. by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng (Younger) Möngke's father, a poor man, tells the boy that he is to become rich and marry the Khan's daughter. After many years of waiting for the prophecy to come true, the penniless young man decides to travel to the city of the Khan to assert his claim. Incredulous, the royal family sets Möngke three impossible tasks. After accomplishing the first two out of sheer luck, Möngke fails in his attempt to conquer Bagatur the Clever and Mighty-only to find that his foe is really the Khan's daughter in disguise. She is delighted to marry a "prudent husband who won't get himself killed at the first opportunity," and they live as equals "for the rest of their lives." Yep's retelling of the Mongolian tale is fluid and engaging. The story is humorous and quite modern, with an independent heroine and a moral that touts the value of reason and equality. The text is enhanced by the Tsengs' detailed double-page watercolor paintings, which provide a rich cultural and geographical setting to the story without sacrificing its humor. Many of the illustrations are panoramic views of the Khan's court or of the countryside, with the hapless anti-hero Möngke at center stage. m.v.k. Poetry Eloise Greenfield For the Love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me; illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist (Younger) Greenfield and Gilchrist combine their talents in an unusual, although not entirely successful, picture book about heroes and human potential. Unlike the many picture books about great names from the past, this book uses Michael Jordan's power and grace, and especially his seeming ability to defy gravity, as inspiration for children to spread their own wings and fly. The text is an extended poem narrated by two African-American children: "For the love of the game / of life / I rise from my bed / and greet the world / I am here!" The subject-if not the sermon-will appeal to many young readers, and the watercolor paintings of Michael Jordan are full of movement and strength. Gilchrist uses light and shadow to create a powerful visual portrait. In contrast, the paintings of the boy and girl carry less visual or emotional weight. The text is inspirational and full of basketball imagery, but preachy-much more earthbound than its subject. m.v.k. Nonfiction H Susan Campbell Bartoletti Growing Up in Coal Country (Intermediate) Inspired by the shared memories of members of her family, the author has written a concise, thoroughly researched account of working and living conditions in Pennsylvania coal towns. The first half of the volume details various duties in the mines, from jobs performed by the youngest boys to the tasks of adult miners, while the second half describes the company village, common customs and recreational activities, and the accidents and diseases that frequently beset the workers. Preceding each chapter and within the text, quotes from personal interviews with miners, as well as taped interviews and transcripts, provide a refreshing first-person frame of reference. Carefully selected anecdotes help convey the factual information. Of particular appeal is the chapter called "Sweethearts of the Mines," which describes the often cantankerous, but very intelligent, mules that toiled beneath the surface of the earth. Bartoletti's accessible writing style, as well as the abundance of stimulating information, makes for an engrossing historical account. A black border around each black-and-white photograph underscores the grim conditions of life in coal country at the turn of the century. The young, coal-dust-smudged faces of the breaker boys, spraggers, nippers, and mule drivers will forge in the reader's mind a sense of identification with these children who lived and worked close to a hundred years ago. An extensive bibliography of sources is appended. anne deifendeifer Jennifer Owings Dewey Rattlesnake Dance: True Tales, Mysteries, and Rattlesnake Ceremonies g; illus. by the author (Intermediate) Bitten by a rattlesnake at the age of nine, the author-illustrator not only lived to tell about it, she went on to witness a Hopi snake ceremony and a ritual of a more basic kind-two male rattlers wrestling for supremacy. Dewey's retellings of these encounters are vivid and personal, from her recollections of the snakebite's effects ("black shadows moved across my eyes until all I could see was a tiny pinpoint of light") to her account of the "rattlesnake dance" ("they pulled apart and met chin to chin, making me think of children on a playground ready for a fistfight"). Informing the three anecdotes is a good deal of natural history and snake lore in the main text and in well-placed sidebars. Meticulous colored- and black-pencil drawings on spacious pages convey both story and science. r.s. Dick King-Smith Animal Friends: Thirty-one True Life Stories; illus. by Anita Jeram (Younger) A collection of anecdotes, many just a single paragraph, offers an un-usual glimpse into the personality and lifestyle of the man who created that unforgettable farmyard denizen, Babe. Given his long fascination with animals, it's no wonder that King-Smith can evoke their traits, tribulations, and triumphs with such sensibility and sincerity. The foreword, which includes a few pivotal photographs, provides a brief biographical sketch as well as an introduction to what is to follow. The earliest selections are drawn from his childhood: first ride on an ele-phant; concern for a tortoise whose eggs failed to hatch because he didn't know "you had to have a father tortoise as well as a mother"; recollections of a tree frog. Later sketches are usually longer and some-times poignant, such as "Killed on Active Duty," the story of a puppy he adopted while serving with the British forces in Italy during World War II. Most, however, are by turns funny or wry; all are understated, conversational in tone-and just plain appealing. Anita Jeram's line-and-watercolor illustrations are handsome, elegantly executed, but never overwhelming. Together, text and pictures are a beguiling package, a great source for spontaneous story times, for independent use, or for tempting reluctant readers. m.m.b. Stephen Kramer Eye of the Storm: Chasing Storms with Warren Faidley g; illus. with photographs by Warren Faidley (Intermediate) Kramer, author of solid informational books on tornadoes and lightning, here takes a more personal, anecdotal approach to heavy weather by chronicling the storm-tracking of weather photographer Warren Faidley. Faidley has an unusual schedule: Midwestern tornadoes in the spring, Southwestern thunderstorms in the summer, East Coast hurricanes in the fall. The book includes basic facts of meteorological phenomena, a little about techniques of weather photography, an alleged excerpt from Faidley's storm diary ("'Look, Tom! Another tornado!' I exclaim"), and some tips on storm safety. The main attraction, of course, is Faidley's photographs: sharp full-color shots of thunderheads, crashing trees, and lightning bolts; one of the most, er, striking, shows a blue prairie sky overwhelmed by a massive dark cloud that drops a tornado into the land like an exclamation point. A glossary and short reading list are appended. r.s. Laurie Lawlor Where Will This Shoe Take You?: A Walk through the History of Footwear (Intermediate) The author presents the whys, whens, and whats of footwear from woven bark to Air Jordans in a clear text and attractive, uncluttered format using maximum white space. The illustrations feature black-and-white photos in combination with sketches, maps, and depictions of footwear shown isolated against the page-a design that makes it easier to grasp the details mentioned in the captions. Following the initial chapter chronicling the early development of footwear, the focus shifts to a thematic approach, including such topics as shoes as protection, as power and status symbols, as fashion statements, and as play equipment. The book can obviously be used for costume history reference, but it also has value in discussions of cultural differences, economic develop-ment, and social movements. e.s.w. Milton Meltzer Weapons and Warfare: From the Stone Age to the Space Age; illus. by Sergio Martinez (Intermediate, Older) Sandwiched between opening and closing philosophical statements and questions about the nature of war, the topical contents are arranged as an eclectic catalog of weapons, battles, and related topics of particular interest to the author. The flow of the narrative is loosely chronological; the choices of weaponry, personal. Each section includes a brief description of the subject, and sometimes a short historical vignette. The text is workmanlike; the book will be useful (although it lacks notes) and popular. Unfortunately, the accompanying drawings are extremely dark and lack definition. e.s.w. Tara Roberts, Editor Am I the Last Virgin?: Ten African American Reflections on Sex and Love (Older) "My ideal woman is a woman with her tightly coiled 'fro...and in charge of her own soul" writes Roberts in her own contribution to this powerful and poignant collection. Ten young African-American women relate their personal stories-each one a bolt of emotion-in an open discussion about sex and love, something essential to "the very fabric of young women's lives." Following the opening affirmation that, for Roberts, virginity means strength and independence, the point of view shifts to a rape victim too terrified to leave her home; other contributors celebrate mother and daughter bonds, discover reasons to live after years of sexual abuse, reflect on the concept of the menstrual hut as a place of learning and change, define what love is not, speak honestly about coming out as a black lesbian, and explore the complex issues of abortion and the pain of AIDS. The concluding chapter from an incest survivor extends the message that there is no better comfort than a woman's own love for herself. While readers may become impatient with the repetitive messages of healing and empowerment as well as with the similarity of tone, the inherent drama of the accounts and the honesty with which they're told should guarantee the book a wide audience. A thirty-page resource directory lists hotlines and help centers nationwide; authors' biographies are also included. amy chamberlain George Shea First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers; illus. by Don Bolognese (Younger) Young Tom Tate of Kitty Hawk has a penchant for "making up stories," but what he tells his friends one day in 1900 is true: he has just met two men from Ohio who "say they are going to fly through the air like birds." His friends don't believe him-either then; or the next day, when he becomes the second person ever to fly, in the Wright brothers' glider; or three years later, when, after witnessing their first successful machine-powered flight, Tom boasts that he's going to fly to the moon one day. Tom's enthusiasm for the brothers' outlandish ideas is infectious, and his last exaggerated claim both brings the story neatly into today's world and inspires readers to reach for the seemingly impossible. Shea's presentation of the familiar story in an early-chapter-book format is excellent. The year-by-year tracing of the brothers' progress necessarily slows the pace of events, but the author's lively evocation of Tom and the inherent interest in the Wright brothers' story easily hold the reader's interest. Bolognese's loose-lined watercolor illustrations convey the particularities of turn-of-the-century Kitty Hawk as well as the moments both of tension and freedom involved in the creation of the first flying machine. m.v.p. Walter Wick A Drop of Water; illus. with photographs by the author (Intermediate) The photographer responsible for the baroque extravaganzas of Jean Marzollo's I Spy series here achieves equally impressive results with his pictures of plain old H2O. Beginning with a drop of water dripping from a faucet, the photos are so clear, the water so palpably wet, you'd swear you could hear the drip-drop-plop. Unlike Ken Robbins's rhapsodic and ecologically-minded Water, Wick's book focuses on the subject's physi-cal properties and transformations, with one sequence showing, for example, "how clouds form," using a simple demonstration of water vapor forming on salt crystals. The science isn't always as easy as it looks, and sometimes complex concepts come before more simple ones, but the photos implore kids to try out some of these concepts for themselves. A good afterword about experimenting with water and ice, bubbles and rainbows, will help them to do just that. r.s. Of Interest to Adults Eric Carle The Art of Eric Carle Introduction by Leonard S. Marcus. A spacious, inviting volume celebrates Carle's much-admired picture books. After art school in Germany, where Carle received excellent instruction in graphic arts and design, the young man resettled in the United States. When he ultimately abandoned a successful career in commercial art for more creative activity with picture books, he felt a joyful liberation that has infused his life and work ever since. Almost from the start he has worked in collage-brilliantly painted tissue paper, cut and layered for nuances in color and texture. An innovative early book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, established a pattern, and with translations into twenty-three languages, it has remained his most famous and well-loved work. "A touchable book that was also a readable toy," it displays Carle's fascination with both content and form. His animal creatures reflect his respect for the young child's imagination and innate curiosity about the natural world. Included in the text are an autobiographical essay, an appreciative piece by his longtime editor and friend Ann Beneduce, a speech Carle delivered at the Library of Congress, a photo essay on his technique, and a group of reproductions selected from his picture books. With an illustrated international bibliography and an index. ethel heins John Cech Angels and Wild Things: The Archetypal Poetics of Maurice Sendak The conclusion of this study contains its central concept: "In Sendak's archetypal poetics the exchange between the realms of the mythological and of his own contemporary creation are instantaneous and reciprocal." So, too, is Cech's technique; he meshes a variety of critical approaches with biographical and autobiographical substance to progress through Sendak's work. Supplemented with nine full-color plates and 108 black-and-white figures, some from sketchbooks and preliminary drawings, the largely chronological organization of the book traces the emergence of Sendak's child archetype and maps the exploration and expansion of it. Cech consistently alludes to the historical and cultural influences on the artist, from family to self, from Mickey Mouse to Judy Garland, from Blake to Mozart. In Sendak, Cech divines the child as empowered and vulnerable, as innocent and experienced-a liberating idea. cathryn m. mercier From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
The Art Of Eric Carle ($35.00; Sept. 4, 1996; 125 pp.; 0-399- 22937-X): An agreeable overview of Carle's life and work, a consideration of the genesis of his ideas, a look at how he fashions his collages, and admiring words from some of his colleagues. There are repetitions, e.g., the story of how The Very Hungry Caterpillar came into existence is related at least three times. Throughout are photographs and reproductions of art; the book closes with more samples of Carle's work and an international bibliography of his published books. (index) (Autobiography. 8+)