Books by Barbara Brenner

GOOD MORNING, GARDEN by Barbara Brenner
Released: May 1, 2004

Brilliant cut-paper collage and joyful rhyme make Brenner's latest a winner. In the opening spread, readers follow a girl beyond the garden gate. She appears close-up on the next page, eyes wide, as she stops to smell the flowers, deep purple cones dotted with tiny blossoms surrounded by lush green leaves. In the background, framed by an indigo field, the orange sun rises. Throughout, textured papers carefully cut and intricately arranged, create three-dimensional tableaus. Children will enjoy exploring the details—a mottled toad beneath a flower pot, a nesting bird, winged ladybugs—and hearing Brenner's text, full of fun words: "Good morning, blue / delphinium, / purple phlox, / pink hollyhocks." This is the anti-bedtime story, and a wonderful way to wake up. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
ONE SMALL PLACE IN A TREE by Barbara Brenner
Released: March 1, 2004

Brenner shows young readers two different ways of looking at nature. By the Sea focuses on a tide pool, a place "no bigger than a bathtub," and invites the reader to examine its occupants closely. When the tide brings in plankton-laden seawater, the mussels and barnacles eat. But then a sea star eats a mussel, an anemone eats a snail, and a hermit crab jumps into the empty snail shell the anemone discarded. Very quickly and simply, readers understand how everything in the pool is related. If something upsets the pool's equilibrium, "[it] would still be a tide pool, but it would change"—a complicated concept that invites further thought. In a Tree, however, shows how a small space can evolve over a much greater span of time. First a bear scratches a tree; timber beetles burrow into the cut in the bark; woodpeckers feasting on beetles help to create a hole; squirrels move in, then bluebirds. Eventually the tree dies and falls, but the hole remains an animal home. The two share a spare, poetic language, giving just enough information. Leonard's bright illustrations match the text well—detailed, but not overly so, with a good sense of movement and life. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
VOICES by Barbara Brenner
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

"Our garden / doesn't spread out very far, it's a little affair / in which we won't lose each other. / For you and me it's enough." Though hung on a geographical framework, with a section for each inhabited continent, this generous array of short poems, gathered from dozens of countries, covers a universe of topics, as do the accompanying folk- and fine-art illustrations. The selections are mostly free verse, mostly less than a century old, and although the work of many translators, form a harmonious chorus, whether the poet is singing to the sun-as-warrior ("The fearful night sinks / trembling into the depth / before your lightning eye . . .") or chasing a wind-blown bagel down the street, mourning a lost child, or joyfully exclaiming, "my stomach / shouts with hunger / when I smell / the delicious / tortillas." The art, too, forms a seamless tapestry, despite diverse visions and styles, so that a lush Diego Rivera scene shares a spread nicely with a riotously colored Aztec bas-relief, a piece of kente cloth with an ancient bust of Nefertiti. The poetry is all reprinted, and there is seldom information about poets or artists beyond country of origin and dates, but this handsome, readable collection outdoes even Kenneth Koch's and Kate Farrell's Talking to the Sun (1985) in demonstrating the unity beneath the diversity of human artistic vision. (credits, index) (Poetry/art. 8+)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

A folk-art quality infuses Dunrea's clean-lined and pleasing gouache illustrations for this highly appealing biography from Brenner (The Earth is Painted Green, 1994, etc.) on the childhood of America's first world-famous artist, Benjamin West. Later in life, West would enjoy the patronage of King George III and friendships with men such as Benjamin Franklin, but the boy growing up on a Pennsylvania farm in the tag end of a family of ten showed few signs of what he would become. Three chapters relate pivotal moments in West's boyhood; in the first, Benjamin is given the duty of rocking the cradle and flapping the flies away from a baby, but is seized by an intense desire to draw the child instead, resulting in an astonishingly recognizable drawing. A nicely executed section, "And Then What Happened?" collapses the rest of an illustrious career into two spreads, one of which provides some of the artist's paintings, including his first, Landscape with Cow. A concluding spread simply and briefly provides bibliographic data. The glimpses of the artist's development in this handsome book provides may be apocryphal autobiography from West himself (Brenner bases her incidents on his account of his childhood), but the charm and innocence of his delinquencies will attract readers. (Picture book/biography. 5-8) Read full book review >
CHIBI by Barbara Brenner
Released: Feb. 20, 1996

A wild mother duck lands in a pond outside a Tokyo office building; seemingly oblivious to the crowds of human observers, she raises her brood, then leads them across an eight-lane highway to a roomier body of water—the great moat in the Emperor's Imperial Gardens. The birds become national media celebrities; reporters camp out as police officers hover, ready to stop traffic when Mother decides to make the move. Later, three ducklings are washed away in a storm, but after an anxious search, two are recovered- -including the smallest, Chibi. Many children will have caught glimpses of this modern Make Way for Ducklingslike family on the news or in a documentary that appears frequently in the US. Brenner (The Earth Is Painted Green, 1994, etc.) and Takaya relay the facts with obvious affection for their subject and make the text just long enough to be divided into two chapters; it includes a smidgen of Japanese. Otani's neatly drawn, evenly lit watercolors capture the tale's simple charm in clean, roomy scenes of smiling people in casual Western dress photographing—but never trying to feed or handle—the dappled, lively ducklings. (notes, glossary) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1994

A veteran author and illustrator bring their common interest in nature to a beautiful anthology of high-quality poetry: 91 poems from such as Roethke, Sandburg, Ciardi, Merriam, Millay, and Zolotow and from Leila and Tanya Dreskin (ages 5 and 7), plus several haiku and Native American songs. Though the table of contents offers a logical seasonal arrangement, many poems don't fit their categories: e.g., only a few selections in the ``Planting Green'' section have anything to do with cultivation, while ``Maple Sweet'' surely doesn't belong among the fall poems. Schindler alternates two styles in his watercolors: one detailed enough for a field guide, the other a more generic rendering in which humans, in particular, are almost cartoonish. Juxtaposed, as they frequently are, the contrast can be jarring. Still, a useful and attractive volume, informed by a sensibility similar to the one that inspired Anne Harvey's Shades of Green (1992), but visually more lavish and accessible to younger children. Indexes of authors, titles, and first lines; acknowledgements are adequate, but a full list of sources would have been more useful. Crediting editors and designers is a nice touch. (Poetry. 7+) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1993

This intriguing sampling of insects has several things going for it: crisp, bright illustrations rendered in accurate detail that makes spotting the specimens pointed out in the text especially satisfying; an easy conversational style describing some of their most interesting, or visible, characteristics; additional facts that make species memorable and pique continuing interest. Ladybugs, monarch butterflies, dragonflies, aphids, and more are featured, with occasional strays wandering from spread to spread. Oddly, there's no definition of ``insect,'' and the page that challenges readers to sort yellow jackets from bees offers too few clues for differentiating between them. The 13 species are shown in silhouette on the last page—captioned, to scale, and with size variations noted. An attractive and effective introduction to insect identification. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
BEAVERS BEWARE! by Barbara Brenner
Released: Feb. 1, 1992

In the ``Bank Street Ready-to-Read'' series, Level 2, a ``fact-based'' confrontation with nature, dedicated ``To Fred, who shared the experience,'' that cries out for a bit more information about the events that inspired the intriguing story. A girl and her parents notice peeled, pointed sticks on the dock near their wilderness home. The mystery is soon solved: beavers are building a lodge on this unusual foundation, undeterred by the nearby humans. Mom protests about the many trees that the beavers are cutting; no one likes their strong smell; and there's talk of calling the game warden to move the unwelcome tenants. But then a storm looses the dock and it floats down the river- -lodge, beavers, and all. In McCully's appealing pen-and- watercolor illustrations, readers will enjoy spotting the beavers even before the young narrator does. Competently written for the intended level, as well as informative and thought-provoking, but these values are somewhat undermined by the absence of an explanatory note. (Easy reader. 5-8) Read full book review >
GOOD NEWS by Barbara Brenner
Released: June 3, 1991

On Level 1 of the useful ``Bank Street Ready-to-Read'' series, a story pivoting on the exaggeration of news as it's passed along. Canada Goose is sitting on four eggs; as word travels around the pond, they become eight ``monster'' eggs. Both repetitions and minor variations serve the humor as well as the needs of the beginning reader. The illustrations are lively and appropriately comic; they also help define less familiar species like wood duck and muskrat. (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >