School Library Journal Gr 2-5-Moving from rural Saskatchewan to the city holds a lot of opportunity for a girl and her brother. The young protagonist experiences her share of apprehension as well, "This is where I live. I don't know Toronto. I know here." "Here" is first described as a single, trailer-lined road that runs from the dam that her father is working on to the school. Readers are then treated to the flora and fauna of the forest, hills, and creeks that the girl will miss. There's the man who delivers the groceries, her teacher, and her classmates, too. Miss Hendrickson suggests that she draw a picture encompassing all that she'd like to remember. She does and after sharing it with the class, she folds it away for safekeeping. "I will fold up the howl of the wolf and the smell of the fox in his cage...and the feel of my heart beating fast as I swooped over my road in a five-seater airplane. I will fold my drawing up small, put it safe in my pocket and I will take my road with me. To Toronto." The simple, straightforward text is spot-on in capturing the child's sensibilities and feelings. James's vibrant acrylic and India ink on panel artwork brings the girl's world to life, with its starkness, beauty, and haunting appeal. The stylized paintings at times have a surreal quality and are almost dreamlike in their composition. A regional look at a universal slice of childhood.-Luann Toth, School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list Based on the author's childhood memories of leaving northeastern Saskatchewan for Toronto, this debut picture book captures a child's fear of moving with a touch of magic realism. Both words and pictures show a little girl's frustration and uncertainty when she learns that she will be uprooted ( I don't know Toronto ) and her sadness at leaving behind what she knows and loves. Before she moves, she lives in a trailer park where her dad is building a dam, and energetic, colorful pictures in acrylic and india ink show her playing hide-and-seek in the forest, listening to wolves howl at night, and going to school with nine other kids: only me in grade three. She is terrified of the city, and the pictures show her imagined images of big looming buildings that look like monsters. Kids facing their own wrenching upheavals will take heart in the girl's celebration of her roots and what she knows about herself and the world, all of which give her strength to move on.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist
Book list The trouble begins when sister Mabel blows a bubble that bobbles over baby and wafts him away. Baby floats over mother, past the neighbors, and through the busy streets as bystanders join the chase. How to bring baby down? A human ladder forms and a slingshot finally solves the problem, but then who's going to catch the baby? Mahy is clearly in love with language here, as she offers a text that flounces and bounces like the baby in the bubble: But she bellowed, / 'Gracious, Greville!' / and she groveled on the gravel / when the baby in the bubble / bibble-bobbled overhead. Dunbar uses watercolors accented with cut paper to chronicle the silliness. The story goes on a bit long for the youngest, but children will find their ears perking up at the tongue-twisting text, and they may become word lovers, too, after listening to this.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2009 Booklist
School Library Journal Starred Review. PreS-Gr 2-A truckload of trouble and mountains of mayhem ensue when young Mabel blows a bubble that enfolds her baby brother and carries him aloft. He is pursued by his frantic mother and sister, "crumpled Mr. Copple and his wife," "feeble Mrs. Threeble," "Greville Gribble," the chapel choir, and other townsfolk. The text floats in waves along with the bouncing baby across the energetic watercolor and cut-paper spreads. Dressed in stripes and plaids, nightshirts and jogging suits, the crowd sprints along through backyards and gardens, gesticulating wildly as the smiling infant floats by. Eventually, the rescuers form a human ladder to reach him. But Abel, "a rascal and a rebel," performs a dastardly deed with his slingshot and the people watch in horror as the baby plummets through the air. It takes three page turns for readers to reach the delightful resolution of this perilous predicament. There is no mistaking the baby's happy landing as his smiling face and waving arms and feet fill the spread. This tale, with its over-the-top silliness, is a storyhour gem. And with some practice, the rhyme, alliterative phrases, and names will fall trippingly off the tongue. Fabulous fun!-Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list "*Starred Review* In a dark house, a girl lies awake while her family sleeps. Then a breeze floats through a window, and she follows it through her room, up a staircase, and onto a rooftop garden, where she makes a nest of chairs, pillows, and blankets, and finally falls asleep under a starry sky. Illustrator Bean makes his authorial debut in this quiet story that mixes a touch of whimsy with a meditative sense of calm. The spare sentences have a lulling rhythm that echo the words' soothing references to breath and breeze, while the silvery, ink-and-watercolor pictures add a quiet drama. Frames resembling movie stills zoom in on the solitary, small girl in the big room, and then zoom out in expansive aerial views as the girl gains a comforting sense of the wide world all around her. Kids will recognize the girl's thrill in her small, private adventure, even as they're deeply reassured when Mom appears and sits with her sleeping daughter. Pair this peaceful, moonlit offering with Elisha Cooper's A Good Night Walk (2005)."--"Engberg, Gillian" Copyright 2007 Booklist
Publishers Weekly Bean (The Apple Pie That Papa Baked; reviewed below) creates almost magical rhythms in this pitch-perfect story. As the opening pages describe bedtime at the main character's urban house ("At night, after her brother and sister went to bed/ long after her parents whispered "Good night, happy dreams!" and went to sleep"), square watercolor panels move from scenes in the emptying hallway and into the girl's room. There, readers learn, she lies "AWAKE," and the blank space surrounding the single, jarring word contains all the feeling in the close-up of the girl's face, seen for the first time on the opposite page. The plot is so quiet it would escape a lesser writer: lured by a breeze, the girl brings pillows and bedding up to the roof, followed by her cat (and, unbeknown to her, by her mother). Bean makes a visual poetics of this concept as the square panels now yield to full-spread illustrations. The artist supplies luminous aerial scenes of the roof garden amid a friendly, well-lit cityscape, then zooms out for more panoramic views ("She thought about the wide world around her and smiled"). His eye returns to rest on an image of the girl and her cat, comfortable at last in an improvised bed, at home in the world. The story breathes reassurance and adventure at the same time-just in case, after the girl has fallen asleep, the mother appears by her side. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal PreS-K-This quiet book tells the story of a city girl who can't sleep. When she feels a breeze blow in through her open window, she gathers pillows, her blanket, and the family cat and follows the wind up to the roof of her building. She doesn't realize that her mother is also awake and is trailing her up the stairs. On the rooftop, the child snuggles into a bed made of two chairs pulled together and contemplates the wide world and the open sky, eventually falling asleep. The final scene shows her mother, sitting next to her and thoughtfully gazing at the full moon. The watercolor illustrations, some full-page, some panels, perfectly depict the shadows, darkness, and light of the slumbering city. The volume's small size makes it most appropriate for sharing one-to-one.-Ieva Bates, Ann Arbor District Library, MI Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2-In this endearing picture book, a tail-wagging dachshund and a multicolored stuffed bear star in three tales about friendship. In the first, Dog wants to go outside, but Bear is perched atop a tall chair and can't get down. It takes encouragement and ingenuity, but the pooch eventually helps his pal descend; unfortunately, Bear's scarf has been left behind. Next, Dog wants to play and brings out numerous toys, but Bear is busy reading. At last, he closes his book and asks, "What shall we do?," and the pup appears with a stack of volumes ("Read to me!"). Finally, Dog decides to change his name. Bear points out that none of the traditional canine choices is suitable, imagining what his friend would be like if he were called Spot (speckled with colorful dots), Fluffy (pink, with a cotton-candy body), or Prince (dressed in royal regalia). They reach a consensus when Bear suggests "My Best Friend Dog" (Dog for short). The characters and a few highlighted objects are drawn with thick black lines, colored with bright variegated hues, and set against white backdrops. The eye-catching artwork shines with humor and warmth. Told with simplicity and charm, this story is appropriate for sharing aloud or for newly confident readers.-Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Book list Seeger, whose Black? White! Day? Night! (2006) was a 2007 Booklist Editors' Choice, introduces a pair of endearing animal friends in this winning picture book. Bear is a multicolored stuffed toy; Dog is a playful, rowdy dachshund. In three distinct stories, Bear and Dog solve problems, tussle, and enjoy the warm feelings that friendship brings. In the first episode, Dog helps timid Bear down from a high stool. In the second, Dog wants to play, but Bear needs some quiet time alone. And in the final story, Dog suffers a small identity crisis, but Bear helps him recognize that he is just fine as he is. The distinct stories give this the feel of a beginning chapter book, and Seeger's minimal text is perfectly paced for new readers, who will love the dose of humor at each story's close. In pictures as spare and charming as the text, Seeger captures preschoolers' expressions and body language in her animals, painted in elemental shapes lined in black and set against empty white backgrounds that keep the focus squarely on the characters. Young children who have discovered their own first best friends will recognize the highs and lows, and they'll want to add Bear and Dog to their list of favorite animal pals. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2007 Booklist
Publishers Weekly As inventive and fresh as Seeger's Hidden Alphabet, the three gentle stories in this inspired collection are utterly charming. Emerging readers will take to the rambunctious dachshund and winsome stuffed bear, and will find the bold font of the economical text easy to follow. Each story's conflict is satisfyingly resolved with a surprise ending that reflects these unique individuals. When Dog rattles off his inappropriate suggestions for changing his boring name, Bear suggests that Dog change his name to "My Best Friend Dog." Dog is delighted, but then blithely suggests that Bear call him "Dog for short." The uncluttered illustrations, in thick black line and swirling bright watercolor wash, work seamlessly with stories that rely on humor both child-centered and unexpected. When Dog coaches the timid bear off of a high chair ("Take one step. One little, tiny step"), their faces deftly mirror their emotions. Seeger comically combines Bear's narration of a story he is trying to read with Dog's rambunctious pleas ("Play with me! Play with me!"). When Bear finally puts his book down and asks what they should play, dog answers, "Read to me! Read to me!" After turning the last page, young readers will beg the same for this enchanting trio of tales. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 3-Ehlert combines vivid collage artwork, effulgent colors, and an inventive design to create an eye-catching picture book. With a body made of fallen leaves and acorns for eyes, Leaf Man takes off from a backyard and flutters away on the breeze, meandering past animals, over fields of fall vegetables, above waterways, and across prairie meadows. The text suggests a range of possible destinations, along with the refrain, "Well, a Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows." Finally, readers are encouraged to listen for "a rustle in the leaves" and maybe find a Leaf Man of their own to take home. From ducks to pumpkins to fish, all of the objects described are fashioned out of life-size leaves of various shapes, sizes, and hues and set against backgrounds of textured paper. The die-cut pages curve and bend across the top edge, suggesting undulating mountains set against a sky-blue backdrop. The various leaves and seeds are identified on the endpapers. While the story is simple, the artwork is dazzling, and the book's concept will inspire nature walks, art projects, and curiosity about the changing seasons.-Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Book list PreS-Gr. 2. Ehlert's imaginative way with picture books in general and those of the natural world in particular continues with this eye-popping book that follows one bold maple leaf with acorn eyes as the wind blows it here and there. In a brief author's note, Ehlert describes how she picks up leaves wherever she goes. She uses them--gathered from oaks, hawthorns, elms, beeches, and more--to great affect here, cleverly shaping them into the many animals and objects the leaf flies over: chickens, fruits and vegetables and lakes, fish, and rivers. Hints of whimsy are cleverly incorporated in the figures (the tips of a maple leaf form a cow's udder), and scalloped edgings on the tops of the pages, cut at varying heights, artfully give the effect of setting the action against a three-dimensional landscape. There is no real story here, but the book can easily translate into a guessing game, as young eyes pick out the slightly camouflaged shapes. The bright colors and distinctive shapes will make it a pleasure for children to do just that. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2005 Booklist
Publishers Weekly Ehlert (Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf) returns to one of her favorite themes-the rainbow beauty of autumn leaves-for this refreshing riff on leaf peeping and collecting. A narrator recalls the Leaf Man that used to live nearby but recently blew away with the wind. "He left no travel plans." From that breezy beginning, the narrator imagines the different flight patterns the Leaf Man may have followed "past the chickens, toward the marsh,... over the prairie meadows,... past the spotted cows," and punctuates the lyrical text with an occasional refrain ( "a Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows"). All the while, Ehlert sparks her foliage flight of fancy with her snazzy leaf collages. Fiery maple, brown mottled catalpa and bright yellow ginko leaves take the shape of various animals and objects on each spread. The boldly colored background papers, of varying texture, make the leaves pop. And, in the type of clever book design for which Ehlert is known, the pages are die-cut and/or patchworked at the top to create a rolling, flowing effect throughout. Endpapers serve as a labeled field guide to leaf varieties and an author's note expresses Ehlert's passion for her subject, and describes her art technique. After this visual feast, young nature lovers are sure to look with fresh eyes as they walk through the woods. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly A cluttered house, lovingly rendered in comic-book panels by Grey (The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be), provides a perilous landscape for the titular square-jawed action figure. Readers infer Traction Man's origins from a "Dear Santa" letter on the title page ("I expect you know about what happened to my old Traction Man and the Terrible Parachute Accident") and a gift-box on a sleeping boy's bed. The new Traction Man, replete with special outfits, soon meets trouble in a flowerbed and among dirty dishes: "Traction Man is diving in the foamy waters of the Sink (wearing his Sub-Aqua Suit....) Oh, no! This Poisonous Dishcloth will envelop Traction Man and suffocate him!" Pursued by the glaring, squidlike Dishcloth, Traction Man is pulled to safety by a "brave little Scrubbing Brush," portrayed as a doglike sidekick with bristles for feet. Brown-paper thought balloons with italic type indicate the real-time story line; "I think it's someone's bathtime..." signals the hero's encounter with the Mysterious Toes, which he tickles into submission. Artful watercolor panels alternate with full-page compositions, and the keyed-up narrative is printed on torn graph-paper scraps for a casual, homemade effect. Grey sets the events on a damp English Christmas, but the holiday takes the back seat to the boy's implied stage-managing of Traction Man and transformation of ordinary objects. Will Traction Man rescue the quivering Cupcake from the villainous Doctor Sock? Stay tuned. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly This effectively spare, lyrical account chronicles Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between Manhattan's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gerstein (What Charlie Heard) begins the book like a fairy tale, "Once there were two towers side by side. They were each a quarter of a mile high... The tallest buildings in New York City." The author casts the French aerialist and street performer as the hero: "A young man saw them rise into the sky.... He loved to walk and dance on a rope he tied between two trees." As the man makes his way across the rope from one tree to the other, the towers loom in the background. When Philippe gazes at the twin buildings, he looks "not at the towers but at the space between them.... What a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk." Disguised as construction workers, he and a friend haul a 440-pound reel of cable and other materials onto the roof of the south tower. How Philippe and his pals hang the cable over the 140-feet distance is in itself a fascinating-and harrowing-story, charted in a series of vertical and horizontal ink and oil panels. An inventive foldout tracking Philippe's progress across the wire offers dizzying views of the city below; a turn of the page transforms readers' vantage point into a vertical view of the feat from street level. When police race to the top of one tower's roof, threatening arrest, Philippe moves back and forth between the towers ("As long as he stayed on the wire he was free"). Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting is the book's final painting of the imagined imprint of the towers, now existing "in memory"-linked by Philippe and his high wire. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly In this sassy creation myth that tweaks the first chapter of Genesis, Big Momma "roll[s] up her sleeves" and gets down to business ("Wasn't easy, either, with that little baby sitting on her hip"). " `Light,' said Big Momma. And you better believe there was light.' " Here Oxenbury shows mother and child jubilantly emerging from a watery world ("There was water, water everywhere") to greet the light at the surface. At the close of each day, a pleased Big Momma views her handiwork and pronounces a refrain that echoes the King James Bible "That's good. That's real good." On the sixth day, in a sly nod to another take on the world's beginnings, Big Momma "finish[es] things off in one big bang"-fashioning a host of creatures. As a final touch, the matriarch uses "leftover mud" to shape "some folks to keep me company" and charges them with caring for her creation. Root infuses her tale with a joyful spirit, and her lyrical vernacular trips off the tongue. Zaftig Big Momma and her chubby cherub are equally winning, and Oxenbury playfully tracks the creation process with compositions that move through subtle shades of blue and black and then transform with the addition of the golden shades of sunshine, the verdant greens of earth and an explosion of hues as birds, fish and more multiply across the pages. A gentle spin on the Genesis story sure to get youngsters talking. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2-Here's a creation myth that casts the creator as a full-figured, down-home Big Momma, with a baby on her hip and a pile of laundry and dishes to do. Oxenbury's luminous, oversized acrylics perfectly capture the strong, no-nonsense personality of this barefoot creator capable of making and moving mountains. Big Momma doesn't mess around, as she commands each part of the world to appear: "`Earth,' said Big Momma, `get over here.'" Then, at the end of each day, she looks around and says, "That's good. That's real good." By the sixth day, she still doesn't have anyone to talk to or keep her company, so she makes folks in all colors, shapes, and sizes to sit on her front porch and swap stories. Before resting on the seventh day, Big Momma tells her people to take good care of the world she made for them. She keeps an eye on them from her perch in the sky, occasionally interrupting her chores to warn, "Better straighten up down there," but is ultimately pleased with her handiwork. This book's interpretation may offend many who take the biblical creation story literally, but for those who are open to variations on a theme, Big Momma's tale is an utter delight.-Laurie von Mehren, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Parma, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Book list PreS^-Gr. 2. A raucous, joyous version of the creation story starring a big, bossy woman who knows what she wants and how to get it: "When Big Momma made the world, she didn't mess around." Down in the infinite water, her naked little baby on her hip, she sees what needs to be done: "Light," says Big Momma. "And you'd better believe there was light." She also creates dark on the first day, and for the next five days she's one busy lady. Sky, sun, moon, earth, flora, and fauna--there's so much to do, and after she does it, Big Momma always says approvingly, "That's good. That's real good." On the seventh day she rests, leaving the world to its own devices, though sometimes she looks down and tells her final creation--humans--that they'd "better straighten up." Sometimes, when she and baby look down, they like what they see. Root's text is strong and sassy, with a down-home cadence that has immediate appeal, and Oxenbury's Big Momma is the perfect embodiment of the story's earth mother--no particular race or color, just full of affection and determination. Some of the pictures are wonderful (a double-page spread of animals bursting out of the sun); some, such as the one of modern-day humans looking up at the sky, are more mundane. Yet overall, this is an exciting, new version of one of the world's oldest stories. And the baby is pretty cute, too. --Ilene Cooper
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2-In this down-to-earth look at the creation, Big Momma calmly faces each new challenge and takes care of business and her baby besides. The spare, folksy language and glorious larger-than-life art reflect the enormity of the task and a reverence for the creator's handiwork. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal K-Gr 2-When Kate and her parents visit an animal shelter, they first bring home a precious puppy, then return to adopt an older dog that had also captured their hearts. Graham's cartoon-style, plump figures include a Mom with a tattoo and nose ring, and a disheveled Dad. The cozy domestic scenes include typical particulars like a forgotten piece of toast, toys on the floor, and cleaning gear in the bathroom. With the comprehensive characterization chronicled in these pen-and-ink and watercolor panoramas, readers easily embrace this family whose affections extend to include pets on the bed. This endearing book successfully compels those previously pledged to pedigree puppies to try an alternative route.-Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Book list Ages 3-5. "Let's get a pup," are words that strike fear in the hearts of some parents, but not the happy-go-lucky young parents in this book. When their little daughter wakes them up with her request, Mom asks, "What, a brand-new one?" and Dad jokes, "With the wrapping still on?" But even before finishing breakfast, they are off to the rescue center, where there are many, many dogs to choose from: "sniffers and sleepers; scratchers and sleepers." After looking at smelly dogs, fat dogs, happy dogs, and sad dogs, they find Dave, a perky puppy with spots. He's the one, but on the way out they meet Rosy--old, gray, and broad as a table. Of course, they can't take every dog home, so they leave Rosy behind. That night, Dave is the perfect puppy addition to the household, but something is missing. Time to bring home Rosy. This is first-rate child's fare, with enough joy to bring smiles to kids' faces and a few touching moments to tug at their heartstrings. Graham's bright art is sometimes surprising but always on target. Here, Mom wears a nose ring, and Dad wears an earring, yet they are ideal parents for this tender family story. This is a book sure to make both listeners and readers feel warm and happy when they put it down. Pair it with Marc Simont's The Stray Dog [BKL Ja 1 & 15 01] for a story hour with a delightful doggy theme. --Ilene Cooper
Publishers Weekly Dog lover Graham (Max) adds another tail-wagging treat of a picture book to an oeuvre that includes the canine-inspired titles Benny and Queenie, One of the Family. Following the death of her cat, young Kate has grown lonesome for a new pet. Mom and Dad quickly catch Kate's enthusiasm when she suggests, "Let's get a pup!" and the family heads to the local animal Rescue Center. After looking over "fighters and biters, growlers and snarlers, short dogs, dogs long and thin, and dogs with their cheeks sucked in" they see a smallish, frisky puppy that's just right. As they exit the Rescue Center with their new pup, Dave, the family sees a large, sweet-natured older dog that tugs at their hearts. A sleepless night passes for everyone and the next day Kate's family rushes back to the shelter and expands their brood by one more the older dog they now call Rosy. Graham once again depicts common family situations with abundant humor and tenderness. His jaunty pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork captures universal themes with a contemporary spark thanks to his renderings of unconventional-looking parents (Mom and Dad both have piercings; Mom sports a tattoo). Throughout, copious white space and spot vignettes give the proceedings a breezy pace. Ages 3-6. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Gr 3-6-This ghost story for the strong of stomach features a bagpiper by the name of Willie McPhee. Hard times have forced him to seek a place where people can afford his entertainment. Months pass. His boots are "more holes than leather." Alone, hungry, and tired, he trips on what he soon realizes is the frozen body of a man whose boots are too fine to leave behind. He can't remove them until he drops the man's leg, which then snaps in two. Carrying the boots (and feet within them) tied around his neck, Willie seeks shelter on a farm, only to be told by the inhospitable owner to sleep in the barn with the cow. In the morning, Willie plays a trick on his mean-spirited host and places one foot in the cow's mouth, the other beside her. The shocked farmer quickly buries the feet, and when Willie reappears to play his pipes on the grave, the man and his wife take off, never to be seen again. Later that night, as Willie enjoys the cozy warmth of the farmhouse, a footless stranger appears at the door. So ends the tale. DeFelice's language, tone, and pacing capture the essence of the oral tradition while Parker's dark and stylized watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations reflect the playfully somber mood of the story. This is a yarn meant to amuse as well as frighten, and it succeeds at both.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly DeFelice and Parker (previously paired for The Dancing Skeleton) join forces again, this time to polish up a Scottish ghost story. When ragged, penniless Willie McPhee, "the finest bagpipe player in all of Scotland," stumbles across a dead man in the forest one snowy night, he helps himself to the boots. Unfortunately the man's feet come with them, snapping off when Willie tugs on the frozen legs. But "a poor man must be practical, after all," and Willie carries off the boots (and feet). Later he decides to play a trick on a heartless farmer who grudgingly sends him to the barn when he asks for shelter: Willie arranges the now-thawed feet to make it appear that their cow has eaten him. The horrified farmer and his wife quickly bury the evidence, but when Willie comes out of hiding and pipes a farewell tune atop the "wee small grave," they flee, thinking him a ghost. In the end, a bona fide ghost does appearDto Willie. DeFelice pitches this deliciously eerie tale in the kind of cadence and language that make for a grand read-aloud (e.g., the near-shoeless Willie goes "flip-flap, flip-flap, flip-flap down the road"), and she neatly preserves the regional flavor ("Och! They were fine-looking boots, they were!"). Beautifully set off by the understated book design, Parker's watercolors rank with his finest. The blotted impressionistic colors and scrawled lines are both edgy and amusing, while the cool gray tones create an appropriately chilly backdrop for the spooky antics. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Book list Gr. 2^-4. In this picture book for older children, DeFelice retells an old Scottish legend based on the "trickster tricked" theme. Willie McPhee, the finest bagpipe player in Scotland, is forced to travel far from home to find paying customers. He spends so many months on the road that "his boots [are] more holes than leather." He manages to get by in summer, spring, and fall, but he suffers when winter comes. One day, when he's nearly frozen, he stumbles over a dead body in the forest--a body with a nice pair of boots. Temptation leads to grotesque action. The eerie ending is a fine twist, and Parker's watercolors, depicting a misty Scottish landscape, are well suited to the ghostly story. The book may appear to be for young children, but the grisly theme is better suited to older ones. --Connie Fletcher
School Library Journal K-Gr 4-A nicely realized retelling of a short passage from Henry Thoreau's Walden. Henry and his friend decide to go to Fitchburg, a town 30 miles away. "I'll walk," says Henry, but his friend decides to work for the money for a train ticket and see who gets there first. Each subsequent spread marks their progress: "Henry's friend cleaned out Mrs. Thoreau's chicken house. 10 cents./Henry crossed a swamp and found a bird's nest in the grass. 12 miles to Fitchburg." The friend arrives first, barely. "`The train was faster,' he said." "I know," Henry smiled, "I stopped for blackberries." Johnson makes this philosophical musing accessible to children, who will recognize a structural parallel to "The Tortoise and the Hare." The author quotes Thoreau's original anecdote in his endnote. The two friends are depicted as 19th-century bears in the geometric, warm-toned, pencil-and-paint illustrations. Each picture is solidly composed, and although the perspectives may seem somewhat stiff and distracting up close, they work remarkably better from a short distance. The layout and steady pace, as well, make this suitable for storytime. The somewhat open-ended resolution could allow for classroom debate, and is also simply a good ending to a good story.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Book list Ages 4^-8. Henry the bear and his friend decide to visit Fitchburg, a country town some 30 miles away. Henry asserts that walking is the fastest way to get there, but his friend thinks the train is best. They agree to meet in Fitchburg to see which of them is right. As Henry begins his hike, his friend goes off to earn money for the train fare. It won't take long for adults to realize that Henry is no average bear. He's an ursine Henry David Thoreau (and looks the part), engaging in a simple competition to gently expose children to Thoreau's view of life. While his friend fills the woodbox in Mrs. Alcott's kitchen, Henry rock-hops across the Sudbury River. While his friend pulls weeds in Mr. Hawthorne's garden, Henry presses ferns and flowers in a book. And while his friend cleans out Mrs. Thoreau's chicken house, Henry crosses a swamp and finds a bird's nest. While his friend, having finally earned the fare, rides a train bound for Fitchburg, Henry, nearly there, eats his fill in a blackberry patch. Although the commuter does reach Fitchburg ahead of the hiker, Henry smilingly responds with bemused understatement: "I stopped for blackberries." This splendid book works on several levels. Johnson's adaption of a paragraph taken from Thoreau's Walden (set down in an author's note) illuminates the contrast between materialistic and naturalistic views of life without ranting or preaching. His illustrations are breathtakingly rich and filled with lovingly rendered details. The angular, art-deco-influenced spreads are beautifully colored, thoughtfully designed, funny, and interesting, demonstrating Johnson's virtuosic control of his craft. Young children will like the story itself; older ones may be inspired to talk about the period in American history and the still relevant issues Thoreau raised. --Tim Arnold
Publishers Weekly Freelance illustrator Johnson models his striking debut on a passage from Walden, in which Thoreau advocates journeying on foot over buying a ticket to ride. Henry, a brown bear attired in a brick-red duster and wide-brimmed sun hat, is a kinder, gentler fellow than his cantankerous inspiration. His ursine friend, wearing town clothes and conspicuously toting a pocket watch, makes plans to meet him in Fitchburg, a town 30 miles distant. Spreads contrast the pair's respective travel strategies: on the left, Henry's friend does chores for unseen Mrs. Alcott, Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Emerson to earn train fare; right-handed pages picture a leisurely Henry examining flora and fauna, admiring the view and excavating a honey tree as he strides toward his destination. At the end of the summer day, "His friend sat on the train in a tangle of people./ Henry ate his way through a blackberry patch." Johnson inventively demonstrates Thoreau's advice with kaleidoscopic illustrations in variegated colors and gently skewed perspectives that weigh fast-paced urban existence against an unmaterialistic life in the woods. Both bears make it to Fitchburg, but Henry's friend wears a blank stare, in contrast to Henry's bright-eyed, curious gaze. Johnson implies what money can and cannot buy, and encourages slowing down to experience nature. With graceful understatement, he presents some complicated ideas assuredly and accessibly. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 3-In a tropical rain forest in Central America, a red-eyed tree frog spends the night looking for food while avoiding potential predators. Bishop's high-speed photographic techniques transport viewers to this distant world and allow them to see other creatures from the tree frog's perspective. Larger-than-life images document the hunt, brought to a satisfying conclusion as the well-camouflaged frog settles among the leaves to spend the daylight hours in sleep. Cowley's simple text provides a narrative arc for the amazingly sharp, clear photos. Those who want more information can consult the two pages of explanations that follow the story. Accessible to a much younger age group than most books about rain forests, this volume will also attract older readers because of the striking visuals.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Book list Ages 2^-5. Stunning color photographs and a gripping interactive text bring you right up close to a red-eyed tree frog in a rain forest in Central America. The big pictures are arranged to tell an exciting narrative, and a few simple words draw you in and build the suspense. As evening comes, the frog wakes up hungry. What will it eat? "Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas." Do iguanas eat frogs? A photo shows the two creatures eyeing each other, and the frog does not wait to find out. It does not eat the ant or the katydid. Will it eat the caterpillar? No! the caterpillar is poisonous. Then suddenly, the hunter becomes the prey: a hungry boa snake slips and slithers along a branch. It gets very close. The snake's tongue flickers as it tastes frog in the air. Then, in a climactic double-page spread, the frog jumps and escapes. It finds a moth and crunches it. Finally, the frog shuts its red eyes, as morning comes to the rain forest. The photographs in rich shades of green and red show each creature very close up, even the hairs on the caterpillar, as the small frog would see them. The questions will draw in young preschoolers, who will be held by the pictures and by the exciting story they tell. For older readers, the afterword provides more astonishing facts. --Hazel Rochman
Publishers Weekly With quiet phrases and luxurious color, Banks and Hallensleben (Baboon) evoke a perfectly peaceful bedtime. In a stuccoed house, amid tranquil lakes and orderly rows of trees, a girl plays with stuffed animals and listens to a story read by her father. Far away, the moon glows on tall hills, desert, jungle and ocean, where people and wild animals prepare for sleep. Full-bleed spreads expertly relate the text's alternating descriptions of relaxed interior and exterior scenes. In the child's bedroom "on a small table sits a glass, a wooden boat, a starfish, too." Hallensleben connects the spread that follows, "if the moon could talk, it would tell of waves washing onto the beach, shells, and a crab resting," with a painting of boats bobbing on a tranquil sea, whose color gently echoes the water glass on the bedside table of the previous spread. The story closes with the child tucked into bed and the moon whispering, "Good night." Hallensleben complements the hushed narrative with warm cushions of paint: the girl's thick blanket is egg-yolk yellow with orange-red dots and the pillows are as deep blue as the night sky. The outdoor panoramas have the same intimacy, whether they feature a lioness and her cubs, or a red tractor lumbering toward a yellow-lit farmhouse. As night gently envelops the landscapes, the words and art convey the snug warmth of a featherbed and a world as small as a neighborhood. Ages 3-5. (Mar.)
Book list Ages 3^-5. The author and the illustrator of Spider Spider (1996) and Baboon (1997) offer a cousin to the classic Goodnight Moon, suffused with a similar sense of comfortable, comforting domestic intimacy. As night falls, a child's bedtime routine echoes the outdoor scenes on alternating spreads: she sits in her father's lap looking at a picture of camels and listening to a story that "unfolds like a banner wandering across the sky," while sand blows across a distant desert; just as a light flicks on in the hall, stars appear over a small town; and a bit later, while birds are settling down in a cozy nest, her mother tucks her in with a hug. Hallensleben uses a large brush and bright, vigorously applied colors to give each scene an expressionistic intensity of feeling. With its features only faint, suggestive swirls, the moon lights woodlands, desert, a tranquil beach, a lion licking her cubs, and, at the end, the sleeping child snuggled down under a comforter--but the visual links go far beyond that, as bedroom objects, animals, and even color combinations consistently recur in different but related forms outside. Using heightened but not self-consciously "poetic" language, Banks opens her patterned text on a strong note ("A window yawns open. Twilight blazes a trail across the wall.") that progressively subsides to a murmurous conclusion. A study in verbal and visual harmony from the title on. --John Peters
School Library Journal K-Gr 2?In this quiet lyrical story by the collaborators of Baboon (Farrar, 1997), a sense of peace prevails. Evening approaches. Inside, a child goes through her bedtime rituals?a story, a glass of water, a hug from Mama. Outside, the moon shines down on a world slowly preparing for nighttime?stars appear, wind rocks a tree, a lion licks her cubs. The deeply saturated tones of the lovely, impressionistic oil paintings perfectly match the somnolent feeling of the text. Moonlight illuminates the countryside while warm colors exude a cozy ambiance in the house. The repetitious text adds to the subdued mood. Perfect for one-on-one sharing, this book will enhance bedtime story collections.?Anne Knickerbocker, Cedar Brook Elementary School, Houston, TX
School Library Journal PreS-Gr 1?Fretting over headlines in the newspapers he's delivering, Henry almost runs over a sparrow on the sidewalk. There's a flash of light, and suddenly, like his comic-strip hero Falconman, the boy is swooping through the skies fighting evil?or, at least, collaring a scary dog, rescuing a cat from a bully's clutches, and repeatedly snatching the temporarily flightless sparrow out of danger in the nick of time. Like newspaper comics, Pinkney's full-color scratchboard scenes are done in page-sized panels, with a minimum of text but maximum action, dramatized by swirling lines, wide gestures, and "THONK!" "ZAP!" sound effects. Henry's heroics will win readers over instantly; he may not save the world, but before he returns to Earth, he does make his suburban neighborhood "just a little better." That's a plausible goal for any actual or would-be superhero.?John Peters, New York Public Library
Publishers Weekly Though sobering front-page headlines worry a young paperboy, the comics?especially a strip called Falconman?lift him up. Quite literally, in fact. After Henry peruses a Falconman strip in which a magical falcon converts a police trooper into a superman by lending him the power to fly, the boy's bike collides with a similarly gifted sparrow. Suddenly airborne, the boy delivers his newspapers in flight while saving innocent neighbors from a menacing bully and his growling pooch. For the course of Henry's transformation, the book adopts a comic-strip format, accenting the boxed, action-filled pictures with brief, punchy text and a chorus of sound effects like "CHIRP!", "WHOOSH!" and "THONK!" In a final, satisfying coup, Henry comes to the rescue of the benevolent sparrow, vulnerable because it has temporarily relinquished its powers of flight to Henry, a development that readers will delight in discovering before the boy does. The plot unravels chiefly through Pinkney's (Max Found Two Sticks; see I Smell Honey, reviewed above) airy, motion-filled art, expertly rendered in scratchboard, transparent dyes and gouaches in creamy colors never before seen in a comic book. Clever quips and asides add humor and playful melodrama. Pinkney clearly had a blast creating this soaring story, and his high spirits are transferable to the reader?ZAP! Ages 4-9. (Apr.)
Book list Ages 4^-8. One morning while on his route, Henry the paperboy accidentally collides with a sparrow and discovers that he can fly--just like Falconman, his favorite comic strip superhero. The newfound power of flight enables Henry--excuse me, Sparrowboy--to deliver his papers by--er, airmail and also to right a number of minor wrongs in the neighborhood. When things magically return to normal, "everything felt just a little better." Since Henry lives on Thurber Street, some adult readers may be reminded of Walter Mitty, but that connection is hardly necessary to enjoy this lighthearted lark. Pinkney combines his signature scratchboard technique with comic strip format and appropriate typefaces to create the illustrations that accompany this affectionate fantasy, which will leave its readers feeling "a little bit better," too. --Michael Cart
Book list Ages 3^-6. As Mr. and Mrs. Duck happily prance along in the rain, Baby pouts and wails about wet feet, wet face, and mud, mud, mud. "I've never heard of a duck who doesn't like rain," frets Mrs. Duck. But Grampa has. He takes Baby up to the attic and pulls out a beautiful red umbrella and matching boots that once belonged to another baby duck who wasn't so fond of the rain--Baby's mother. Large watercolor illustrations make the rainy day look bright and cheerful as, arm in arm, Grampa and Baby waddle, shimmy, and hop in all the puddles. Hest's delightful text exudes charm, and beginning readers will find the large type and simple vocabulary a helpful bonus. Perfect for a rainy-day story time. --Lauren Peterson
School Library Journal K-Gr 5-Another winning collaboration from the master storyteller and gifted artist of Tales of Uncle Remus (Dial, 1987) fame. Based on several well-known versions of an African American folk ballad, Lester's tale is true to the essence of the steel-driving man; yet, it allows room for touches of whimsy and even includes some contemporary references that tie the hero to our own times. Told with just a trace of dialect, the story moves along briskly toward the climax. Its moral message of the importance of a well-lived life is clearly stated, and the ending is uplifting. Pinkney's marvelous watercolors, abundantly rich in detail, convey both the superior strength and the warm sense of humanity that make John Henry perhaps a more down-to-earth character than some other tall-tale figures. The paintings' muted earth tones add a realistic touch to the text, bringing this John Henry alive. When viewed from a distance, however, figures and details sometimes blend together, making the book better suited to independent reading that group sharing. It will appeal to an older audience than Ezra Jack Keats's John Henry (Knopf, 1987) and is a fine addition to any folklore collection.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, Wheeler School, Providence, RI
Publishers Weekly A great American hero comes fully to life in this epic retelling filled with glorious, detailed watercolors. From his momentous birth, when all the animals come to see him and the sun won't go to bed, John Henry works wonders. As a child he helps his father by adding ``a wing onto the house with an indoor swimming pool and one of them jacutzis''-and that's just before lunch. Other episodes trace the growth of his generous spirit. His greatest feat is, of course, in his battle against the steam drill, as he races the machine to cut through ``a mountain as big as hurt feelings.'' He dies (``he had hammered so hard and so fast and so long that his big heart had burst''), but the onlookers understand that ``dying ain't important.... What matters is how well you do your living.'' This carefully crafted updating begs to be read aloud for its rich, rhythmic storytelling flow, and the suitably oversize illustrations amplify the text. As only one example, the animal witnesses of his birth reappear throughout, most notably to watch John Henry's funeral train pass by. This may not supplant more traditional retellings, such as Terry Small's The Legend of John Henry, but it is a triumph of collaboration from the creators of the noted Uncle Remus retellings. All ages. (Oct.)
Book list Ages 4 and up. Based on the popular black folk ballad about the contest between John Henry and the steam drill, this picture-book version is a tall tale and a heroic myth, a celebration of the human spirit. Like Lester's great collections of the Uncle Remus tales, also illustrated by Pinkney, the story is told with rhythm and wit, humor and exaggeration, and with a heart-catching immediacy that connects the human and the natural world. ("This was no ordinary boulder. It was as hard as anger . . . a mountain as big as hurt feelings"). The dramatic climax of the story is set at the time of the building of the railroad through the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia, but Lester begins with the hero's birth, when all the birds and animals come to see the baby and the sun is so excited it forgets to go to bed. Pinkney's dappled pencil-and-watercolor illustrations capture the individuality of the great working man, who is part of the human community and who has the strength of rock and wind. John Henry swings his hammer so fast, he makes a rainbow around his shoulders, and the pictures show that light everywhere, "shining and shimmering in the dust and grit like hope that never dies." ~--Hazel Rochman
Book list Ages 5 and up. Say won the Caldecott Medal for this autobiographical story of his grandfather's journey from Japan to the U.S. It is a version of the American dream that includes discovery and adventure but no sense of arrival. He gets our homesickness, our restlessness, wherever we are.
Publishers Weekly Say transcends the achievements of his Tree of Cranes and A River Dream with this breathtaking picture book, at once a very personal tribute to his grandfather and a distillation of universally shared emotions. Elegantly honed text accompanies large, formally composed paintings to convey Say's family history; the sepia tones and delicately faded colors of the art suggest a much-cherished and carefully preserved family album. A portrait of Say's grandfather opens the book, showing him in traditional Japanese dress, ``a young man when he left his home in Japan and went to see the world.'' Crossing the Pacific on a steamship, he arrives in North America and explores the land by train, by riverboat and on foot. One especially arresting, light-washed painting presents Grandfather in shirtsleeves, vest and tie, holding his suit jacket under his arm as he gazes over a prairie: ``The endless farm fields reminded him of the ocean he had crossed.'' Grandfather discovers that ``the more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places,'' but he nevertheless returns home to marry his childhood sweetheart. He brings her to California, where their daughter is born, but her youth reminds him inexorably of his own, and when she is nearly grown, he takes the family back to Japan. The restlessness endures: the daughter cannot be at home in a Japanese village; he himself cannot forget California. Although war shatters Grandfather's hopes to revisit his second land, years later Say repeats the journey: ``I came to love the land my grandfather had loved, and I stayed on and on until I had a daughter of my own.'' The internal struggle of his grandfather also continues within Say, who writes that he, too, misses the places of his childhood and periodically returns to them. The tranquility of the art and the powerfully controlled prose underscore the profundity of Say's themes, investing the final line with an abiding, aching pathos: ``The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.'' Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
School Library Journal Gr 3 Up-A personal history of three generations of the author's family that points out the emotions that are common to the immigrant experience. Splendid, photoreal watercolors have the look of formal family portraits or candid snapshots, all set against idyllic landscapes in Japan and in the U.S. (Sept., 1993)
Book list Ages 6^-8, older for reading alone. Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal, this is an exquisitely illustrated account of the restless journey of an early Japanese American immigrant who came to California and always felt caught between his new home and the one he left behind.
Publishers Weekly The hands of fate deftly propel this original folktale. A seedy fortune-teller profits from gullible and sometimes desperate villagers who seek predictions for a rosier future. One unhappy carpenter takes to heart the seer's hardly helpful advice--``Rich you will surely be, on one condition: that you earn large sums of money''--and looks forward to a prosperous life. Most surprising to the craftsman, he ends up in the right place at the right time and the prediction comes true. Alexander's chipper text has a jaunty and infectious ``just so'' tone. Amazing coincidences fuse the plot elements, but the story's logic remains intact, successfully suspending the reader's disbelief. Hyman's acrylic, ink and crayon illustrations capture the landscape and people of West Africa in vivid detail. Indigenous plants and animals--including comically placed lizards--dot each scene, and the villagers' lushly textured apparel is spectacular. Especially opulent are spreads featuring the fortune-teller's cluttered quarters and the market stalls with their baskets and pottery. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal Gr 1-4?A master storyteller and an art maven join forces to create some marvelous, magical images. The texture of life and the colors of Cameroon are interwoven into this telling tale about a young man who wants to see what his future holds. (Sept. 1992)
Book list Ages 4-8. Alexander's rags-to-riches story combines universal elements of the trickster character and the cumulative disaster tale. Hyman's pictures set it all in a vibrant community in Cameroon, West Africa. An old fortune-teller assures a young carpenter he'll be rich (if he earns large sums of money), he'll be famous (once he becomes well known), etc. Then the old man disappears; the people think he's been transformed into the carpenter, who quickly takes on the fortune-teller's role, learns the portentous babble, and becomes rich, famous, and happy. Meanwhile, we discover what really happened to the old man: he fell out of the window, had a series of accidents, and disappeared without a trace. The energetic, brilliantly colored paintings are packed with people and objects that swirl around the main characters. Bathed in golden light, the carpenter's dreams of wealth, power, and romance look pale beside the magical daily life of the community. You can look and look at these pictures and see ever more detail of patterns and textures in foods, creatures, carvings, basketware, and, above all, the woven patterned cloths worn by everyone in gorgeous combinations. For the last part of the story--the bad fortune that happens as easily as the good--the packed pictures empty out to a view of wide savanna and the old man falling from the sky like Icarus, lost without a trace. With its ups and downs, this is a funny, playful story that evokes the irony of the human condition. ~--Hazel Rochman
School Library Journal Gr 1-4-- A young carpenter, tired of hammering and sawing, seeks out a fortune-teller to see what his future holds. The cagey old prophet promises him a rosy future--well, maybe. `` `Rich you will surely be,' '' says the fortune-teller, if `` `you earn large sums of money.' '' Moreover, `` `You shall wed your true love . . . if you find her and she agrees. And you shall be happy as any in the world if you can avoid being miserable.' '' Pleased with these promising, if ambiguous, predictions, the carpenter leaves, only to get halfway home and decide he has more questions to ask. But the fortune-teller has mysteriously vanished, leaving the carpenter in the quirky hand of fate where, in typical Alexander fashion, his life takes a surprising and humorous turn. The story's warm and witty tone is reinforced by Hyman's masterful illustrations. Expressive figures are dynamically placed against a West African landscape, in colors so rich and clear that they invite readers to touch the fabrics and breathe the air. Visual details--carved wooden stools, traditional cloth patterns, signs in French--add an authenticity to the story (which is actually set in Cameroon), while touches of humor in postures and expressions underscore Alexander's gentle wit. These illustrations are obviously a labor of love. Vibrant with life and good humor, this is a supremely satisfying creation. --Linda Boyles, Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL
Publishers Weekly In a stunning celebration of color Caldecott medalist Young ( Lon Po Po ) offers a vibrant variation on the fable of the blind men trying to identify an elephant. Seven differently-hued blind mice approach the ``strange Something'' in their midst on successive days and report their findings to the group. A large black square provides the background for each painting, a dramatic contrast to the brilliant images ``felt'' by the sightless rodents. Young's textured, cut-paper illustrations allow readers to visualize just how a floppy ear might be mistaken for a fan (``I felt it move!''); the elephant's curving trunk springs to life as both a jewel-green snake and a glowing yellow spear. The spare text permits greater exploration and enjoyment of the artwork--it may be difficult to read the story straight through without stopping to compare the various images. The ``Mouse Moral'' that concludes the tale--``Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but wisdom comes from seeing the whole''--may seem superfluous to those who prefer the imaginative ``vision'' of the mice. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal K-Gr 3-- A real winner, on many levels. The first impression is visual delight. Brilliant colors and varied textures of paper collage are placed in striking contrast against velvety black pages. Bold white lettering imposed on the dark background tells of seven blind mice, seen in seven bright colors. Over the course of a week each investigates, in turn, the strange ``Something'' it encounters. To one it is a pillar, to another a snake, to another a cliff. Finally, on the seventh day, the white mouse, running across the thing and remembering what the others found, concludes that it is an elephant. The tale ends with the moral that wisdom comes from seeing ``the whole.'' Adapting the old fable of the blind men and the elephant by weaving in the days of the week, the mice, and the beautiful shapes of the things they see, Young gives children a clever story, wise words, and a truly exciting visual experience.-- Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Book list Ages 5^-9. In a quiet, dignified retelling of a Japanese fairy tale, a serving girl saves a Mandarin duck from captivity and is rewarded for her efforts. The warm, expressive artwork, which resembles Japanese prints, is a perfect complement.
Publishers Weekly In another picture book retelling of a Japanese folktale, Paterson ( The Tongue-Cut Sparrow ) recounts the story of Shozo, a one-eyed Samurai unjustly forced to be a servant, and Yasuko, a kitchen maid. They befriend a mandarin duck who pines for his mate while kept in captivity by a fearsome lord. When Yasuko releases the duck, both servants are sentenced to death, but they are subsequently saved by two mysterious imperial messengers who care for them throughout the night and disappear, leaving in their place the two mandarin ducks. Yasuko and Shozo live happily from that time on because ``as they had learned years before, trouble can always be borne when it is shared.'' Paterson's story is rich with magic, compassion and love. The Dillons' elegantly detailed watercolor and pastel drawings, in the style of 18th-century Japanese woodcuts, are exquisite. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal There is a quiet subtlety of tone in both text and illustration that perfectly captures the spirit of this Japanese folktale. Paterson's economical use of language conveys the pure essence of a story that needs no verbal embellishment. A mandarin drake is separated from his mate by a cruel lord who covets beautiful things, only for the honor they bring him as their possessor. When the drake's magnificently colored plumage fades, he is banished to a far corner of the kitchen where Yasuko, the kitchen maid, frees him. The lord blames Shozo, the one-eyed chief steward who had once been a powerful samurai, beats him, strips him of his rank, and forces him to haul waste and scrub toilets. When Yasuko and Shozo fall in love, the lord sentences them to death; they are saved, however, by two messengers announcing that the emperor has abolished capital punishment. The Dillons' watercolor and pastel paintings have the appearance of woodcuts with a luminous quality, conveying both the gentleness and the strength of the characters and of the bond of love between the two couples, human and duck. The illustrations are simultaneously powerful and ethereal with bold lines and fine details which, nonetheless, are more suggestive than definitive. This visual understatement is seen most clearly in the depiction of nature. Each tree, flower, or blade of grass hints of more behind. There is a grace in the flowing lines of the kimonos and beauty in the muted autumn/winter palette, giving a golden, blue-gray, or mauve glow to the various scenes. Although the obvious message of this tale is that of kindness rewarded, there is a more subtle message brought home in the final words, ``trouble can always be borne when it is shared.'' --Kay E. Vandergrift, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Book list Ages 5-9. A Japanese fairy tale, in picture-book format, about a Mandarin duck caught and caged at the whim of a wealthy Japanese lord. Separated from his mate, the bird languishes in captivity until a compassionate servant girl sets him free. The lord sentences the girl and her beloved to death, but they in turn are freed and rewarded with happiness. In the best fairytale tradition, their rescuers, ostensibly servants of the Emperor, turn out to be the grateful drake and his mate. The unity, simplicity, and grace of Paterson's writing find apt expression in the Dillons' watercolor and pastel illustrations. Resembling traditional Japanese prints in their strong, expressive lines, the horizontal pictures feature muted colors with warm undertones. The artwork, like the text, uses repeated patterns and motifs to good effect. The occasional positioning of a small, bordered picture within the larger double-page spread enables the viewer to see in two places at once, for example, the palace where the caged drake sits and the nest where his mate awaits him. A good choice to read aloud, this picture book offers children an appealing folktale expressed with quiet dignity. ~--Carolyn Phelan
School Library Journal Gr 1-5-With forceful impressionistic paintings, Young artfully entices readers across the fairy-tale threshold into a story of three girls' fearless battle of wits with a famished wolf. (Dec. 1989)
Publishers Weekly This version of the Red Riding Hood story from Young ( The Emperor and the Kite ; Cats Are Cats ; Yeh-Shen ) features three daughters left at home when their mother goes to visit their grandmother. Lon Po Po, the Granny Wolf, pretends to be the girls' grandmother, until clever Shang, the eldest daughter, suspects the greedy wolf's real identity. Tempting him with ginkgo nuts, the girls pull him in a basket to the top of the tree in which they are hiding, then let go of the rope--killing him. One of Young's most arresting illustrations accompanies his dedication: ``To all the wolves of the world for lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness.'' Like ancient Oriental paintings, the illustrations are frequently grouped in panels. When the girls meet the wolf, e.g., the left panel focuses on their wary faces peering out from the darkness, the middle enlarges the evil wolf's eye and teeth, and the third is a vivid swirl of the blue clothes in which the wolf is disguised. The juxtaposition of abstract and realistic representations, the complicated play of color and shadow, and the depth of the artist's vision all help transform this simple fairy tale into an extraordinary and powerful book. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)
School Library Journal Gr 1-5-- A gripping variation on Red Riding Hood that involves three little sisters who outsmart the wolf ( lon or long in Cantonese) who has gained entry to their home under the false pretense of being their maternal grandmother ( Po Po ). The clever animal blows out the candle before the children can see him , and is actually in bed with them when they start asking the traditional ``Why, Grandma!'' questions. The eldest realizes the truth and tricks the wolf into letting them go outside to pick gingko nuts , and then lures him to his doom. The text possesses that matter-of-fact veracity that characterizes the best fairy tales. The watercolor and pastel pictures are remarkable: mystically beautiful in their depiction of the Chinese countryside, menacing in the exchanges with the wolf, and positively chilling in the scenes inside the house. Overall, this is an outstanding achievement that will be pored over again and again.--John Philbrook, San Francisco Pub . Lib .