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Library Journal Review
Known for his elegant picture books, famed illustrator Sís uses his artistry to detail the life of Galileo. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Horn Book Review
(Preschool) In a refrain that begins every sentence, the young female narrator asks her adoptive parents to "tell me again" the story of her birth and introduction into the family she is now a part of. This entertaining, idiosyncratic ramble begins with a phone call in the middle of the night that brings her parents to the hospital where they pick her up. Details that young children will appreciate are included: she loved her first bottle and hated her first diaper change; on the long plane ride home Mommy and Daddy carried her like a china doll and glared at anyone who sneezed; and on that first night at home Daddy told her about baseball and Mommy sang the lullaby her own mother sang to her. (The illustration shows baby looking on dubiously.) The text covers the subject of birth parentage by having the child explain that "another woman who was too young to take care of me was growing me and she would be my birth mother, and you would adopt me and be my parents." The humorous, cartoon-style pictures by Laura Cornell, whom readers may best remember as the illustrator of Annie Bananie (Harper), are a perfect visual counterpart to the text - displaying a family tree that includes both sets of parents, and presenting a life-size "diagram" of a newborn infant that labels such items as long skinny fingers, wrinkles, a taped-over future belly button, and "perfect pink toes." n.v. Sarah Fox-Davies Little Caribou; illus. by the author (Younger) "In the far north of North America, at the edge of the frozen Arctic Ocean, is a land without trees called the high tundra." This simple picture-book natural history is as much about place as it is about the life of the caribou. Energy and beauty mark the evocative watercolors, spreading spare, seasonal vistas across cream pages. The account begins as a newborn caribou first stands on shaky legs in the melting spring snow. Little Caribou and her mother are part of an enormous migrating herd that feeds on fields of grasses and flowers in the open, high tundra during the short weeks of summer, and forages in lower level snowy forests during the longer winter season. Two enemies--humans and wolves--threaten the animals as they swim rushing rivers and range through mountainous terrain. The economical narrative focuses on the rigors of life in this habitat and emphasizes the nearly perpetual scarcity of food. The book contains little explicit information about caribou physiology, emphasizing instead the life cycle through a year of changing seasons. Close-up views of the animals are softly realistic, while wider views of the herd are reminiscent of cave drawings. The soft blues and browns with a bit of summer green effectively convey the northern landscape; one lovely spread reminds us that fall occurs here, too, with frost turning the tundra to red and gold. At once pretty and spartan, the year-long journey of the herd ends on a satisfying note. "In her first year she has walked more than two thousand miles. Born to travel, Little Caribou will spend her whole life on the move. Her home is the herd." m.a.b. G. Brian Karas Home on the Bayou; illus. by the author (Preschool, Younger) Can an angry-to-be-uprooted cowboy ever find home and happiness living on the bayou? It sure doesn't look like it at first: young Ned has to use a garden hose for a lasso; Granpa, with whom Mom and Ned have come East to live, wears rubber boots ("no decent cowboy would ever wear rubber boots"); Ned yells at his mom, and now they aren't speaking; and, worst of all, he quickly becomes the favorite target of the school bully, Big Head Ed. It's only when he stops sulking and begins to act like a real cowboy ("it's time to do what you gotta do") that things improve: Ned dispatches the bully, apologizes to his mom, and adapts his cowboy ways to his new locale. He may not be able to lasso the moon, as he had boasted to his new classmates, but he sure can lasso its reflection in the bayou as a present for his mom. The humor is very dry (the swampy setting notwithstanding), and Karas exploits all its potential in both text and pictures--scribbly, narrative-driven acrylic, gouache, and pencil vignettes (sometimes seemingly blotted with swamp water)--but it's the reality of the emotions that gives the book staying power. With his big round head, nerdy high waist, and out-of-place cowboy boots, Ned is as vulnerable as he is tough. m.v.p. Itzhak Schweiger-Dmi'el Hanna's Sabbath Dress; illus. by Ora Eitan (Preschool) Translated by Razi Dmi'el, Ora Eitan, and Philomen Sturges. Delighted with the beautiful white dress Mother has made for her to wear on the Sabbath, Hanna goes outside to show it off to her dog Zuzi and Edna the cow, warning them not to get too close or they'll get her dress dirty. As she walks on, Hanna meets an old man carrying a heavy sack of charcoal on his back and hurrying to get home before the Sabbath begins. Seeing how heavy his burden is, Hanna offers to help by walking behind him and holding the heavy sack up a little. When she is done, Hanna starts for home happily, until she looks down and realizes that she has charcoal stains all over her white dress. Beginning to cry inconsolably, she hears a whisper from the moon asking why she is crying and whether she regrets helping the old man. Hanna answers that she's not at all sorry but she is still heartbroken about spoiling the dress her mother made for her. Whispering, "All will be well," the moon follows Hanna home, flooding her with moonbeams until her dress glows like silver and every stain is gone. Originally published in Hebrew in 1937, the simple story is a perfect example of the moral tale in which a child's act of kindness is rewarded in a mysterious and magical way. Hanna's joy in her new white dress is made palpable by Eitan in four small poses in which Hanna turns this way and that to admire herself. In many scenes, Hanna is little more than a white silhouette against a simple but vividly colored background, yet the stylized illustrations create an endearing portrait of the little girl and her adventures. h.b.z. Arthur Yorinks Frank & Joey Eat Lunch; illus. with photographs by Ky Chung and with "sets and costumes" by Maurice Sendak Arthur Yorinks Frank & Joey Go to Work; illus. with photographs by Ky Chung and with "sets and costumes" by Maurice Sendak (Preschool) In this pair of board books based on Yorinks and Sendak's stage production So, Sue Me, Frank and Joey are construction workers who get into some simple-and funny-trouble. When the Mutt and Jeff-like pair Eat Lunch, Joey accidentally drops Frank's super-sized sandwich ("'Oops!' says Joey") over the side of the building (and conference regulars will recognize that the man the lunch lands on is none other than HarperCollins legend Bill Morris). In Go to Work, Joey steps in some fresh cement, losing his shoes and his pants ("'Uh-oh!' says Joey") when Frank pulls him out. These are one-joke books, but of the broad and disastrous bent that many toddlers enjoy. Photos of the actors (big gestures, exaggerated expressions) are placed against Sendak's rooftop backdrop, painted with snoopy folk who watch the pratfall action. r.s. Fiction Gillian Cross Pictures in the Dark (Older) Charlie, an avid and gifted photographer, inadvertently takes a picture of a mysterious animal one night while attempting to photograph the reflections on the local river. Intrigued, Charlie begins to study the river closely, hoping for another look at the creature, and is drawn to a strange family who live on the riverbank. Jennifer Luttrell and her younger brother Peter are withdrawn and laconic; Peter is tormented by schoolmates (especially Charlie's younger cousin Zoe), who are convinced he has evil powers. The children's father is a dangerous, controlling man who is obsessed with destroying the animal, which he suspects is a mink, that keeps intruding into his manicured yard. Gradually Charlie and the reader deduce that the animal is an otter and that it and Peter are inextricably-supernaturally?-linked. Cross weaves a complex and riveting story that explores themes of escape, perception, and survival. Each of the important child characters is well-drawn and complex, but a few of the adults, most noticeably Charlie's parents, are less completely developed. If not as tightly plotted as some of Cross's previous psychological thrillers, the book is still an agreeably dark, sophisticated novel with elements of mystery and fantasy that compel the reader to turn the pages. m.v.k. Paula Danziger Forever Amber Brown (Younger, Intermediate) Now in her fifth book, Amber Brown is just getting used to the many changes in her life since her parents divorced, her best friend Justin moved away, and her mother started dating Max. Her mother then throws a wrench into everything by announcing that Max has proposed marriage. She and Amber take a weekend trip to visit Justin's family in Alabama. There Amber's mom decides, with her best friend's help, to get engaged to Max, and Amber continues to learn that nothing stays the same. Amber's many fans will enjoy her upfront narration and her frank assessments of herself and those around her. Amber's verbal puns are sometimes a bit too clever and self-conscious, but the breezy writing style suits the quick story. m.v.k. Cynthia DeFelice The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker (Intermediate) Orphaned Lucas Whitaker has lost all his family to consumption, the scourge of the mid-nineteenth century. His grief leads him away from the family's marginal hill farm, and he stumbles into an apprenticeship with Doc Beecher, a rare college-trained physician. The pace of this fine piece of historical fiction is brisk in spite of a wealth of detail that not only establishes the setting but exposes beliefs and attitudes of the day regarding health, hygiene, and witchcraft-Lucas, for example, believes in the common practice of digging up coffins to lay to rest the "undead" who may prey on remaining family members. Readers will be amazed to realize the extraordinary advances in medical knowledge that have occurred in the last hundred years. e.s.w. Terry Farish Talking in Animal (Intermediate) Eleven-year-old Siobhan can recite word for word Senator George Graham Vest's Eulogy on the Dog extolling "the one absolutely unselfish friend a man may have in this selfish world." Unable to imagine life without her beloved dog, Tree, Siobhan denies the seriousness of his failing health. She also finds it unimaginable that her good friend Maddy, a wildlife rehabilitator, is getting married. She has always had Maddy to herself, and every Saturday helps her feed baby birds and clean cages. When Maddy (who talks to Jesus "as if he were sitting in the Kmart in the lawn furniture section") and Siobhan's lawyer mother clash during a demonstration about condoms in the schools, Siobhan stops visiting Maddy and determines to hate, instead of befriend, Maddy's stepdaughter-to-be Lester Grace. Lester's friendly persistence, Maddy's patience, and Siobhan's family members' unique ways of caring eventually prove to her that dogs are not the only ones who "take you for the things you are, not for all the things you aren't." Bolstered by love and friendship, Siobhan finally finds the strength to take Tree to the vet to be put down. The novel never swerves from Siobhan's point of view, and events in the adult world around her remain in the background: we barely meet Maddy's fiancé and know little of their relationship, and the condom controversy takes a backseat to Siobhan and Lester's curiosity about what condoms look like. The relationships among Siobhan's family members are realistically drawn and serve to strengthen the novel's observations of how people communicate and connect. In a book with wider appeal than most dog stories, Farish writes with humor and precision about Siobhan's growing awareness of the many forms friendship can take. jennifer brabander Judith Gorog In a Creepy, Creepy Place and Other Scary Stories; illus. by Kimberly Bulcken Root (Younger) It is not easy to find well-written scary stories for the Goosebumps crowd, but Gorog's collection is just such a book. The five short tales are quite varied. "Take Out the Trash," the first story, is a truly scary tale of a child who is frightened of collecting the trash because it requires that she go alone to the third floor. Even Sophia's enormous dog is afraid to confront the monsters, but they manage together each week. Other stories are less frightening than they are quirky. In one a boy tries to listen to the angel on his right shoulder and ignore the devil on the other; in another, a boy gets a pet tarantula because the spider convinces Gar's mother that he is Gar's guardian angel. The collection's title is a bit misleading-there is no story called "In a Creepy, Creepy Place"-but the book has the right combination of weird, funny, and scary elements to appeal to many young r (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.