Books by Allan Eitzen

MY NAME WAS HUSSEIN by Hristo Kyuchukov
Released: April 1, 2004

What appears to be a standard I-am-Roma-and-this-is-how-we-live story takes a dramatic turn halfway through, packing a substantial wallop. "My name was Hussein," begins this small, big-eyed boy, staring directly at the reader, before he explains how his Roma family lives in Bulgaria and practices Islam. Line-and-watercolor illustrations feature greens and browns and a liberal use of white negative space as they show Hussein and his family happily celebrating Ramadan. The text is simple and ingenuous, giving the whole an almost unbearably naïve air—until "one day everything changed. The army came with tanks, cannons, guns, and dogs," and two tanks rumble in from the left and right, framing the village at gunpoint. It appears that in the mid-1980s, as war raged through Serbia, Bulgaria quietly practiced some ethnic cleansing of its own and forced its ethnic minorities to adopt Christian names. "Now I have a new identity card, too. It says my name is Harry. . . . My name was Hussein." The directness of the narrative underscores Hussein's emotional upheaval and turns an entirely pedestrian tale into a significant and very personal chronicle. An author's note provides historical context. (Picture book. 7-12)Read full book review >
UP THE HILL AND DOWN by William Jay Smith
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Nearly a quarter of the 29 short, conventional rhymes in this rather self-serving collection are Smith's own, and all are reprints. The roster of other contributors includes F. Scott Fitzgerald and Carson McCullers, but after that the names are familiar mainstays of children's poetry collections: David McCord, X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy Aldis, Aileen Fisher, and the like. Mixing paint with paper collage, Eitzen illustrates each poem with a scene featuring children or animals, generally looking reflectively off to the side or into the distance. Though most of the poems are thematically paired, Smith's "The Mirror," for instance, with Gwendolyn Brooks's "Do you ever look in a looking glass / And see a stranger there?," Smith seldom displays much ingenuity in making the matches, and in several cases abandons the effort altogether, as if it were too much work. An ordinary gathering, likely to be lost in the shuffle—and deservedly so. (Picture book/poetry. 7-9)Read full book review >
CORDUROY’S HIKE by Alison Inches
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Corduroy is lost and found once again in this new episode written around Don Freeman's familiar characters. This time, he bounces out of Lisa's knapsack on a hike, is abused by a passing troop of Cub Scouts, falls into a stream, and is back in Lisa's hands by the end, somehow none the worse for wear. Eitzen's illustrations, which resemble colored woodcuts, are done in a style reminiscent of Freeman's, with darker lines and shadows. Unsurprisingly, Freeman's name is the only one on the front cover. Exploitative? For sure. Superficial and derivative? Not really—but most of the emotional territory was already covered in A Pocket For Corduroy (1978), and the contraction-free text is wooden. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
WILLIE’S BIRTHDAY by Anastasia Suen
Released: March 1, 2001

This title is part of Viking's easy-to-read series, with characters inspired by Ezra Jack Keats. While Eitzen hues very close to the artwork of Keats, Suen must go farther afield than Keats's wonderfully sparse, syncopated writing to fill the verbiage necessary to make this an early reader. A handful of children are invited over to Peter and Willie's house to celebrate the dachshund's birthday. Each child brings along a pet, and pretty soon the action revolves around trying to keep order in the gathering mayhem of dog, cat, bird, and fish. As the kids try to engage the animals in fun and games that would be appropriate for a human party, the animals resist: the cat will not wear a hat, thank you, and Willie is not happy to be blindfolded, even for a game of give-the-dog-a-bone. Ultimately, the cat goes after the fish, Willie goes after the cat, the cake crashes to the floor (but that doesn't stop anyone from eating it). A fairly joyous little effort, one that keeps the words hopping to keep the readers reading: "Meow! purred the cat. She put her paw into the fishbowl. ‘My fish!' said Susie. She let go of the blindfold. ‘Shoo! Shoo! Go away!' Willie jumped out of Peter's arms. Arf! Arf! he barked. Meow! went the cat." As Peter says when he rescues the fishbowl, "Safe," and not a bad idea for reaching a new audience. (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
LOOSE TOOTH by Anastasia Suen
adapted by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Allan Eitzen
Released: March 1, 2001

The questionable co-optation of cherished characters from classic children's literature continues, exemplified by this third entry by Suen and Eitzen in the Peter's Neighborhood series (Willie's Birthday, 2001, etc.). Peter, hero of the beloved Ezra Jack Keats classics The Snowy Day and Peter's Chair, is in third or fourth grade now, and he has a couple of mild problems. He wants his loose tooth to stay connected until school-picture day is over, and he wants a new basketball, but hasn't saved enough money to cover the cost. Peter and his friends from various Keats stories (Amy, Archie, and Lily) play a game of pick-up basketball on the playground with four other kids, and Peter's tooth falls out after he trips and falls. He cheerfully decides to "say cheese" for his school picture, knowing that he'll have enough money to buy a basketball after a visit from the tooth fairy. The sturdy but unexceptionable storyline lacks the flair of original work by Keats, and Eitzen's imitative illustrations are only a pale echo of Keatsian genius. Still, the third title in a series implies a certain level of success, so the series may well continue as Peter and his friends grow up. (Imagine the YA titles to follow: A Letter to Peter from Amy, Dreams in Apt. 3, and after Peter and Amy settle down together to raise a family, Peter's Rocking Chair.) (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >