Books by Adèle Geras

Released: March 1, 2008

It's a dream come true for a little birthday girl whose aunt is the prima ballerina of Sleeping Beauty. There's a pre-performance backstage tour, orchestra seats for the performance and after the curtain comes down, a call to the stage from her aunt to dance and twirl and flit and float in front of a very appreciative audience. Tilly previously appeared in Time for Ballet (2004) as a cat in a school recital. Geras conveys the thrill of attending a live performance from a little girl's eyes, but the watercolor illustrations are too washed out to convey the true drama of the fairy-tale ballet. And why does Tilly's father wait outside the theater to take Mom and her home? Little ballerinas may enjoy the story, but it is too bland to be anything more than an additional purchase. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
CLEOPATRA by Adèle Geras
Released: Oct. 15, 2007

Beneath a heavy cover studded with "rubies" and other "gems," the diary of one of Cleopatra's handmaids offers a look at Ptolemaic Egypt's last years. Interspersed with comments about cats, the court and life in Alexandria, ten-year-old Nefret's chatty record of Cleopatra's successive intrigues with her husband/brother Ptolemy, Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony ends partway through. Then Geras switches to third person to trace Cleo's later life and to cover a series of related topics, from Egyptian people and gods to the Roman army. Robertson's paintings range from busy Alexandria street scenes to a view of Caesar's bloody corpse, and are populated with natural-looking, sometimes humorous figures, including a glimpse of Nefret "walking like an Egyptian." Capped by photos of the pyramids and Egyptian artifacts, this mix of fact and fancy isn't exactly seamless, but it does introduce one of history's heroines and brings her era to life in a reasonably accurate way. (glossary, index) (Historical fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
ITHAKA by Adèle Geras
Released: Jan. 1, 2006

A companion piece for the author's Troy (2001)—and another definitive example of storytelling so character-driven that nearly everything happens either offstage or within the hearts and minds of, mostly, the female characters. The dominant theme is "waiting beneath thickening clouds of doubt." As sad, gentle Penelope waits for her beloved Odysseus to return from Troy, her hot-headed son Telemachus waits to turn the age at which he can set out in search of his father, fuming at a crowd of leering, bestial suitors who wait impatiently for Penelope to choose a new husband. Even the dog Argos waits, his life unnaturally prolonged by one of the several gods and goddesses who wander freely in and out of view. Meanwhile, for the younger characters, there's plenty of growing up, of falling into both love and lust, of anger, tears, hand-wringing, intrigue and anguish—though it all seems distant, conveyed with almost ritualistic language in Geras's measured prose. Her attempts to counter the gathering monotony with occasional breaks into modern idiom (Telemachus: "These bastards can't be allowed to get away with stuff like that"), a gratuitous murder and even a secret, tender lover for Penelope are ineffective; not even the concluding bloodbath following Odysseus' eventual return dispels the inertia of this leaden take. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
TIME FOR BALLET by Adèle Geras
Released: March 1, 2004

Tilly is tickled pink because it's Tuesday, the day for ballet lessons. She eagerly prances through her warm-up exercises before moving on to executing the positions. Lessons conclude with the announcement about an upcoming recital where Tilly will perform as a cat. Geras skillfully blends technical information with the lighter side of ballet, offering a primer in ballet basics as told from a preschooler's perspective. In preparation for the recital, Tilly elegantly captures all things feline through her movements, allowing readers a glimpse of the creative license allowed through the dance. Geras's tale underscores that expression, not perfection, is the ultimate goal. McNicholas uses a colorful palate, little wiggly line helping to capture the ebullience and chaos of preschool ballet lessons. The intent expression of the dancers as they stomp around like dinosaurs or flit about like butterflies and the antics of the dancer's siblings as they await the end of class provide wry touches of humor and a genuine slice-of-life feel to the images. Geared for the tiniest tiptoes, this sparkling tale is bound to delight. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Newly fledged chapter-book readers will gloat along with the funny, furry narrators in these two tales of feline triumph. In "Blossom's Revenge," open warfare ensues when sly, spoiled six-year-old Prissy Pinkerton comes for a stay. As Blossom tells it, Prissy is determined to make her life miserable. She manages always to seem to be the innocent, when, in fact, she's the instigator. But even Prissy's no match for a flour-coated "ghost cat," or a mouse in her mashed potatoes. In the second story, sudden fame comes to sedate old "Picasso Perkins" when a visiting art gallery owner sees a sheaf of children's cat sketches decorated with pawprints. The language is droll and sly, "but even at my advanced age, I am quite nippy on my feet in an emergency and thankfully, Lexie cannot follow me through the cat flap." Ross (Little Wolf, Forest Detective, p. 948, etc.) sprinkles comic, ink drawings liberally through Geras's large-type text, perfectly capturing the cats' sense of weary—no, lazy—superiority. Fans of Lauber's Purrfectly Purrfect: Life at the Acatemy (2000) will purr over this, too. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2001

The four ballets retold in this series are the most beloved and enduring of the classical and romantic repertory. Their music, choreography, and mime continue to transfix audiences and envelope them in a world of fairy dust, love, and heartbreak, and the mercurial achievements of the human body as it performs classical ballet steps unchanged for hundreds of years. Capturing this in mere words is difficult, and Geras is too absorbed in the artificiality and stilted quality of her telling to succeed. There is no attempt to convey the emotional intensity of gesture, mime, and the beautiful musical scores. In Giselle, Prince Albrecht remembers his brief love affair with the doomed Giselle. Unfortunately, the text omits the fact that Giselle is fragile and warned by her mother not to exert herself. The sequence of events in the first act is disjointed, and the description of Albrecht being forced to dance to his death by the Wilis (avenging spirits of those who die betrayed by love) in the second act is inaccurate. These are essential elements of the ballet. Sleeping Beauty (1-86233-246-0) is retold by its principal characters (dancers), but omits mention of the quintessential Rose Adagio. The Nutcracker (1-86233-226-6) is Clara's story and is a pedestrian version of the annual Christmas favorite. Swan Lake (1-86233-231-2) resembles a Halloween tale: good battling evil, with nothing of the stirring visions of the second- and fourth-act choreography. Each title contains the same introduction, different afterwords, flowery border decorations, and pretty little color illustrations. Fans of the ballet will not be served by the poor writing and the odd choice of making the stories into memoirs or first-person narratives. In addition, only Petipa is credited as a choreographer for Swan Lake, with no mention of Lev Ivanov. Listen to recordings or find a copy of Violette Verdy's Of Swans, Sugarplums, and Satin Slippers, illustrated by Marcia Brown. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2001

A tiny kitten leaves no spot untouched in his quest for a napping space. Like his human counterpart, Goldilocks, Ginger Kitten has a difficult time selecting the ideal place: a wooden chair is too unyielding, a wee space behind a door too fraught with danger, a doormat too uncomfortable, and so forth. Throughout the house the resolute feline wanders until he discovers a special friend. Soon snuggled up within the cozy confines of a child's lap, the contented puss at last slumbers peacefully. Geras's lilting verses offer a humorous peek into the feline psyche; droll descriptions of his capers reveal an innate understanding of what the mysterious creatures are really up to. "Next, Ginger Kitten / Finds a box. / He pushes and squishes, / but it's much too small." Picture a windowsill of tumbling knickknacks and one startled, orange furball with great big eyes. Walters's sumptuous, vibrantly hued paintings are charming; outdoor garden scenes bloom in a riot of colors and overflow with intriguing details for little observers: buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, etc. And Ginger Kitten is just about the cutest kitten around, exemplifying all of the mystifying, mischievous, and endearing feline mannerisms that make them so beloved to so many. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

From Geras (Beauty and the Beast and Other Stories, 1996, etc.), a lyrical answer for children who wonder ``what everybody's dream might be;/And when they close their eyes at night,/what do they see?'' A mother sits by the bed knitting ``dreams and lullabies'' as a child falls asleep: ``Follow the yarns/as the yarns unwind./What do you find?/What do you find?'' At first the daughter finds her toys, a doll walking to a tea party, a small brown bear, and a large yellow rabbit. But her wanderings expand outward to include the dreams of a real bears, a kitten chasing butterflies in a meadow, even the dream of the moon: ``What the moon would love/is a mile of space/and no thin clouds to cover her face.'' With a singsong rhythm, occasional rhyme, and gently meandering path, the text recreates the indistinct place between wakefulness and sleep. Brown's soft, whimsical watercolors of the child and her toys have the innocent look of another era, reminiscent of Gustaf Tenggren's work of the 1940s and '50s. A perfect bedtime book, both dreamily imaginative and warmly reassuring. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

A retelling of eight familiar tales (along with the title story, ``Hansel and Gretel,'' ``The Tinderbox,'' ``Rapunzel,'' ``Vipers and Pearls,'' ``Bluebeard,'' ``The Girl Who Stepped on a Loaf,'' and ``Something More . . .'') in language that stays close to the original tone and timbre, with the complexities of nuance and situation intact. Neither surprising interpretations nor overriding themes inform the collection or tie the stories together. Why these eight, why this mood—the personality or mission of the selector is all but absent. The illustrations have the illusory edges of dream landscapes, with attenuated, neurasthenic figures and some very strange animal creatures. It's an elegant, but very cold, package, without a ready audience; the text is too long for young children, and the storybook format may put off older ones. (Folklore. 6-10) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1993

Five stories, spanning the years from 1910 to 1954, about three generations of a Jewish family. In the title story, the widow Zehava Genzel and her seven children live in four crowded rooms where, though their means are meager, comfort and companionship are ample. Pnina, eight, is on her way to buy bread when ``something, some light, flashes at the very edge of her vision'' and she catches her first glimpse of a shop, brimming with curios, whose windows shine golden in the sunlight. In ``Beyond the Cross-Stitch Mountains. 1948,'' Pnina's niece, Daskeh, runs away with her friend Danny through war-torn Jerusalem to visit Danny's estranged aunt; returning, Danny is hit by a stray bullet. ``Daskeh lifted the boy onto her hip, as she had seen mothers do with small children. He was not as heavy as a big box of groceries, but she had never had to carry a box of groceries so far.'' Taking responsibility for her actions, she delivers the boy safely home. Rich in incident and telling detail: a memorable offering of shadow and light that absolutely shimmers. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1993

Last in a trilogy about British schoolgirls whose lives parallel fairy tales, this not only depicts Bella's (Snow White's) rivalry with stepmother Marjorie but rounds out the stories of Megan (Rapunzel) and Alice (Sleeping Beauty). It's their hairdresser who fires Marjorie's insane jealousy by commenting on Bella's beauty. Bella, who sings, escapes to live with a band of seven musicians; Marjorie, disguised, tries to poison her (in their London digs and in Paris, where they go to perform) in ways that marvelously mimic Grimm's tale. Meanwhile, Bella has an affair with one of the musicians and falls in love at first sight with an American medical student who's providentially present on the third occasion Marjorie tries to do her in, with Calvados (apple brandy). Though the intriguing correspondences still dominate here, the characters' lives are also developed with some skill—Bella's disastrous relationship with Marjorie, the musicians' mÇnage, and the girls' different attitudes toward going to university are all believably detailed. Another solid performance from a writer distinguished for her imaginative power and fresh, vivid writing. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Second in Geras's intriguing trilogy about British schoolgirls whose coming-of-age troubles parallel familiar fairy tales. In The Tower Room (p. 611), Megan played the role of Rapunzel; here, her roommate Alice is a 20th-century Sleeping Beauty. Alice is not asleep but deeply withdrawn, lying unresponsive in her wealthy father's home and musing about the many species of roses in his fine collection; her trauma was not an encounter with an old woman's spindle (though she has a full complement of amusingly dotty aunts, including the witchy, estranged Violette, who uttered a frightening curse at her christening); instead, she has been brutally raped by the gardener's boy who used to frighten her—but who now has somehow become a debonair gentleman resembling Red Riding Hood's wolf. The schematic relationship with the original distracts as much as it informs, and sometimes fails to justify events: dithery, guilt-prone Alice's response to her trauma is more credible than her sudden cure when her ardent pen pal comes home from Africa to kiss her. Still, Geras writes with imagination and skill, deftly interweaving past and present vignettes; readers will look forward to livelier, more assertive Snow White. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >
THE TOWER ROOM by Adèle Geras
Released: April 1, 1992

The author of, most recently, Happy Endings (1991) begins a trilogy about British schoolgirls whose lives parallel familiar fairy tales. Protagonist Megan (Rapunzel) is an orphan whose schoolmistress guardian, Dorothy, satisfied Megan's mother's craving for asparagus (a stand-in for rampion/rape) before Megan's birth. With intriguing ingenuity, Geras mimics the original tale: the three girls room in a tower conveniently equipped with a workmen's scaffold that Simon, a young science instructor, climbs for trysts with Megan; Dorothy, who also entertains romantic notions about Simon, discovers the guilty pair and exiles them after crushing Simon's glasses. Geras writes with imagination and grace, following the story of ``Rapunzel'' but also having Megan narrate from a London flat where the lovers are confronting the unromantic realities of dead-end jobs—an instructive contrast to the ardent scenes in the tower. Here, too, as in the original story, the characters are schematic—Simon, especially, exists as a one-dimensional object of passion (another sly lesson). But what most holds attention is the fascinating parallel between the credible modern details and the original. Roommates Bella, whose jealous stepmother plies her with apples, and Alice, one of whose 13 aunts caused a fuss at her christening, presage the pleasures in the books to follow. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >