Books by Barry Moser

WE WERE BROTHERS by Barry  Moser
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 20, 2015

"With masterful narrative control, Moser reveals the narrowness of perspective as well as the limitations of memory."
This boyhood memoir reveals much more than it ever explicitly states, with its tight focus on boyhood, brotherhood, estrangement, and reconciliation. Read full book review >
OUTSIDE by Barry Lopez
Kirkus Star
by Barry Lopez, illustrated by Barry Moser
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 18, 2014

"A stunning volume to be savored in a quiet, reflective mood."
A new edition of six previously published stories by Lopez, with engravings by Moser. Read full book review >
CAT TALK by Patricia MacLachlan
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2013

"Though published for the preschool audience, this will no doubt find enthusiastic fans of all ages. (Picture book. 4 & up)"
As they did previously for dogs (Once I Ate a Pie, illustrated by Katy Schneider, 2006), MacLachlan and Charest give voice to a collection of charming pets beautifully rendered by veteran illustrator Moser. Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2011

"Readers with great expectations will find them fully satisfied by this tongue-in-cheek romp through a historic public House that is the very opposite of Bleak. (Animal fantasy. 10-12)"
"He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms." And for all his harsh early life and unnatural dietary preferences, ragged London alley cat Skilley gets to look at a queen, too. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Sept. 1, 2011

An engaging chronicle of the month that Roosevelt and Churchill spent together at the White House, forging an affectionate friendship as well as a world-changing alliance. Read full book review >
OH, HARRY! by Maxine Kumin
ANIMALS
Released: June 21, 2011

"Good fun for the preschool set and slightly beyond. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Combine a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet with a National Book Award-winning artist and, honestly, it's hard to go wrong. Read full book review >
ONCE UPON A TWICE by Denise Doyen
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 25, 2009

A foolish mouse is prone to jamming up the line of fellow night-foragers to smell a rose and wandering off to watch a beetle. After nearly becoming a snake's dinner, "Jam" lives on to lecture mouslings on the dangers of moonlit meanders. The lushness here is in Doyen's "Jabberwocky"-inspired verse, delivered chiefly in rhyming four-line stanzas. " ‘Beware the dangershine of Moon, / Do not disturb the bugs of June!' / The elder mouncelors whispercroon / A tune that tells Jam what to fear…" The scansion's near perfect, and deliciously inventive words (riskarascal, jaw-claws, furlickt) invite repeat read-alouds. Moser's fulsome full-bleed pictures employ a palette of midnight blue, inky charcoal, grayed greens and luminescent ochres. Jagged stalks silhouette ominously against a fat, full moon that picks out detail in a cluster of white roses and the reptilian gleam of a snake's scales. In a particularly effective spread, pairs of eyes, anonymously aglow, peer at prey from near-pitch darkness. This slight cautionary tale is undeniably arrayed in a gorgeous brocade, woven of fresh, inventive wordplay and masterful illustrations. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
LOUSY ROTTEN STINKIN’ GRAPES by Margie Palatini
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 11, 2009

"I am the fox," proclaims Fox repeatedly. "Sly. Clever. Smart." Well, no, not so much—as he amply demonstrates in this brisk retelling of Aesop's "Fox and the Grapes." Scribbling ever more complex diagrams on a pad as one effort after another fails, Fox proceeds to stack obliging Beaver, Porcupine and Possum atop increasingly exasperated Bear to reach the grapes hanging tantalizingly above. At last he quits in disgust ("They're probably sour anyway") and stalks off—leaving the others, each of whom had been summarily cut off in the midst of proposing more feasible ways of getting the grapes, to chow down. Though rendered in fine, naturalistic detail in Moser's typically accomplished illustrations, the animals roll their eyes and gesture in human ways that underscore the silliness of Fox's conceit. The moral is not explicitly stated but then, except for readers of Fox's ilk, it shouldn't need to be. (Picture book/fable. 6-9) Read full book review >
JACK LONDON’S DOG by Dirk Wales
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Based on an episode from writer Jack London's life, this is a tale of a Yukon dog named Jack, which London may have known during his brief participation in the Alaskan gold rush. As the story begins, London meets the big dog and they spend the short days and long nights of the Alaskan winter together. When London falls ill and returns to California, he leaves Jack in the North Country to other masters, and the story cuts back and forth from the exploits of the dog to scenes of London writing The Call of the Wild. Jack the dog achieves a measure of fame for heroically saving two people caught in avalanches, while Jack the author does likewise with his writing. Overwrought, amateurish prose drags the narrative down: "The snow formed a white tongue, lashing down the slopes driven by the wind as if the wind itself was after something or someone, though there was no person or animal to be seen." Moser's lovely engravings and a generally high production value give this volume visual interest, but that's not enough to rescue the whole. (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
HOGWOOD STEPS OUT by Howard Mansfield
ANIMALS
Released: April 29, 2008

What happens when spring strikes the fancy of a 600-pound pig with personality and panache? Confined to his pen all winter, Christopher Hogwood smells the rich, inviting mud. Beguiled by sunlight, the light-footed porker opens the gate and heads to the garden for a light lettuce snack, until a frustrated gardener wards him off. Unruffled, Christopher Hogwood follows his nose to the lawn, which he proceeds to roll up like a carpet with his snout. When the distraught lawn owner chases him with a broom, the mud-mad piggy trots toward a "deep, deep earth smell" and discovers an excavator at work. Leaving chaos in his wake, Christopher Hogwood seems content to ‘let" the nice policeman lure him home with a bucket of apples. Life is good. Based on experiences with his own pig, Mansfield spins this affectionate paean with tongue firmly in cheek, while Moser's stunning watercolors capture Christopher Hogwood at his most luminous: dreaming innocently in his pen; indifferently munching lettuce; snout-deep in freshly plowed dirt; mud-splattered and insouciant. Some pig indeed! (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BARRY MOSER’S PSALM 23 by Barry  Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2008

The main character in this fine interpretation of the beloved psalm is a modern-day shepherd boy from the Caribbean island of Antigua. Beneath the title words set in shiny blue type, the simple but striking cover shows the smiling boy protectively holding his charge, a lamb that appears throughout the volume. The shepherd boy's care for the lamb cleverly echoes the words of the psalm as he provides food, water, shelter and protection from danger. Moser's masterful watercolors evoke the tropical heat in sunny green pastures and the welcome cool of shadows falling on sleeping sheep. His thoughtful illustration of the valley of the shadow of death shows two lost sheep at the bottom of a dark chasm. Sharp-eyed readers will note mysteriously malevolent eyes peering out from crevices, with a single yellow butterfly providing a glimpse of hope. Though his conceptualization of the psalm is simple in nature, the overall effect is powerful, concluding with a spread of misty purple skies and sea behind one white dove taking flight. An introductory artist's note explains Moser's connection to the Antiguan setting and his interpretation of the psalm's text. (publisher's note) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
COWBOY STORIES by Barry  Moser
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

These stories—masterfully culled from classics of the genre—pack a punch, both individually and collectively. Chosen not only for their power but for how well each stands alone, each story wears its age and its history well. A brief commentary on the uses of the cowboy bandana from 1929 sits comfortably next to a vivid account of a ranch house in a blizzard set in the 1950s and written just a few years ago. There's thieving and rustling, stampedes and gunfights, brave and crafty women and laconic and shrewd men. These are not sweet stories—Max Brand's "Wine on the Desert" is downright terrifying—but they are compellingly good reads with all the glories of the American cowboy legend displayed. Excerpts from Shane, The Virginian and Lonesome Dove, as well as from Annie Proulx, Louis L'Amour and Elmore Leonard, are included. Moser's wood engravings are perfectly rendered, their lines and shadows heroic and compelling just like the cowboys. (Short stories. YA)Read full book review >
MOSES by Margaret Hodges
by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Barry Moser
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

Hodges retells some of the key events from the life of Moses in a well-written, fluid style that makes the ancient stories come alive for young readers or listeners. The introduction establishes why the Hebrews were in Egypt, leading to the story of Moses in his basket in the river and his discovery by the Pharaoh's daughter. The story of his life continues in chronological fashion through the ten plagues of Egypt and the Exodus. After the parting of the Red Sea and the return to Canaan, the rest is condensed into just one page, leaving out the story of the Golden Calf, the breaking of the tablets and the Covenant with the Jewish people. The final spread shows the stone tablets with the commandments in ancient Hebrew next to the commandments in English and in modern Hebrew. Moser's full-page watercolor illustrations on every other page create a strong visual personality for Moses as he ages from confident prince to elderly prophet. (Nonfiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
A HORSE NAMED FUNNY CIDE by The Funny Cide Team
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

Sally Jenkins's adult book, Funny Cide, is well adapted for young readers with Moser's art, but a rather long text for a picture book. From his birth as a smaller-than-average Thoroughbred foal, Funny grows into a promising young horse that runs faster than anyone expected. He comes out of nowhere to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness—but it's the applause he gets when he loses the Belmont that shows just how much people had grown to love him. The text barely touches on Funny's unconventional owners, but details some of the health problems he overcame. Moser's vibrant illustrations, often set dramatically on clean white space, beautifully covey Funny's athleticism and grace, and add interest to the story. (Look for a grumpy Moser self-portrait.) Will appeal to horse fans of all ages. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
THE THREE SILLY BILLIES by Margie Palatini
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2005

Though Moser veers off course on one page, this tale of a temporary traffic jam at the local troll bridge will draw fresh bursts of hilarity from fans of Earthquack! (2002) and similar riffs on familiar folktales. A surly gent who resembles, in characteristically droll, realistic illustrations, a diminutive orangutan in ill-fitting human clothes and a hard hat, stops the jalopy driven by Billy Bob, Billy Bo and Just Plain Billy, demanding they "start passing the buck" if they want to cross the bridge. So they pull out and inflate a plastic "car pool" to raise funds from overheated fellow travelers. Joined by Jack, Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood, the three Billys finally wash the troll collector over the side in a climactic but off-stage reversal of fortune, then motor off, leaving the even more disgruntled attendant to face a jolly ("Fee fie fo fum . . . Is that a troll I smell? . . . Yummy yum yum!") green new arrival. Comic flourishes galore in this breezy retelling, though no match for the richness of language and feeling in Patricia Rae Wolff's Toll-Bridge Troll (1995), illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

Readers who don't rest easy after being spooked should be warned away from this posthumous chiller. Billed as an "Original African American Scare Tale," it folds tried-and-true folkloric elements into a fast-paced story featuring a man afflicted by a witch who can detach her head and skin, and a too-curious lad she snatches out the window one night for a wild ride through the air. James Lee finds out what causes his Uncle Big Anthony to become so sick and frightened when he witnesses Wee Winnie Witch strip off her skin and ride Big Anthony like a horse; unfortunately, when she sees James Lee watching, over she gallops to grab him, too. But while they soar over the town (and James Lee finds himself as exhilarated as he is scared), Uncle Big Anthony's canny mother-in-law Mama Granny is coating the inside of Wee Winnie's skin with hot pepper oil. In full-page wood engravings, Moser captures the tale's moonlit horror with gloriously icky views of the witch, both skinless, and as a cat with long-nailed human hands—but he also provides welcome comic relief at the end, with a scene of James Lee, many years later, relating the tale with obvious relish to a wide-eyed young listener. Your listeners will be wide-eyed, too. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
HUMMINGBIRD NEST by Kristine O'Connell George
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2004

Paired to pale, delicately brushed close-ups done with Moser's trademark realism, George's simple poetic observations follow a mother hummingbird as she builds her nest—"Even after days of work / she's still fussing, tucking— / feathers, cobwebs, a tuft / of silky grass"—lays two tiny eggs, then rears her nestlings until they take their own tentative flights. The author rounds out her "journal," which is based on a real encounter, with congratulatory lines—"Well, Mom, you did it"—and a poem noting "new visitors" around the feeder, then closes by recapitulating the entire event in prose, adding hummingbird facts and a reading list. A smooth, easy-reading glimpse into the natural world, with a metaphorical human level that George doesn't acknowledge, but thoughtful readers will spot. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)Read full book review >
EARTHQUACK! by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2002

The Archon of Alliteration, Palatini (Tub Boo Boo, 2001, etc.) scores again with this belly-quaking, thigh-slapping, earth-shaking take on "Henny Penny," starring Chucky Ducky, Lucy Goosey, Vickie, Nickie, and Rickie Chickie, Sue Ewe, and other farmyard residents. The ground grumbles, the ground rumbles, then everyone takes a tumble: is it an earthquake? Enter Herman Ermine, ready to take advantage of the general panic—until he too takes a tumble. Moser (That Summer, p. 571, etc.) leaves the backgrounds in most of his full-page tableaux white or monochromatic, focusing attention on livestock that is at once naturalistically drawn, but with comically human expressions and body language. So what's shaking (besides readers, that is)? Just Joel and Lowell Mole, on their subterranean way to San Jose to visit cousin Garret Ferret. No harm done here, except perhaps to lots of funnybones. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)Read full book review >
ONE SMALL GARDEN by Barbara Nichol
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Nichol (Trunks All Aboard, not reviewed, etc.) wields a glorious simplicity of language to tell a few true stories and impart a lot of natural history about a garden in the city of Toronto. That glorious simplicity is matched by the radiance of Moser's (Sit, Truman, p. 1026, etc.) watercolors, where every leaf and petal is rendered in exquisite detail and every cat and raccoon face looks familiar. There are 12 chapters, each further subdivided, so that every section is quite brief and some loop back again to complete a story started earlier. Readers meet the raccoon family and the line of ants on the maple tree by the garden gate in the very first chapter, and their fates and histories come round again at the end. They meet the poisoned gardener who sprayed so much that he vanished as well as the pests. They'll see the mulberry tree roots and learn the difference between annuals and perennials. There's Butch the cat and his house, Marjorie who climbed a tree, and Sarah who saw a bear. All of these parts make such an attractive package, to be read eagerly by youngsters entranced by growing things (including themselves). Small print might slow some folks down, but it lends itself to being read aloud, so the rhythm of weeding, watering, mowing, and feeding can be heard by more reluctant readers. A lovely, personal look at nature. (Nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
SIT, TRUMAN! by Dan Harper
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

The Moser father-and-daughter illustration team collaborates again with author Harper (Cara's husband) on their second family effort inspired by a beloved family pet (Telling Time with Big Mama Cat, 1998). In this uncomplicated, episodic story, Truman is a huge, drooling Mastiff who rules the household. He lives with his tiny canine companion, Oscar, and their kind but rather ineffectual male owner, an anonymous grownup whose face is never seen in the illustrations. The owner's commands (and pleadings) make up the short text, with the owner urging Truman to sit, share with Oscar, go for a walk, and get out of the owner's bed. Large watercolor illustrations and the oversized format show Truman and Oscar in lots of playful or amusing situations, but there really isn't much of a plot beyond Truman's drooling and his disinclination to obey his owner. But don't underestimate the drawing power of simple stories about large dogs, as this combination seems to have endless appeal to young children. The final words in the story—"Good boy, Truman"—bring to mind another large, dark dog that did quite well with his own series of books with minimalist plots. Sit, Carl. Quiet, Clifford. Move over, Mudge. Make room for Truman. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THAT SUMMER by Tony Johnston
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

"What do you do when you know you are leaving the world?" The narrator, unnamed, asks the question because his brother Joey is dying. No going fishing or playing baseball this summer. As Joey worsens, the family becomes "dream walkers," until Joey, watching Gram with her stitching, asks, "How do you make a quilt?" And Joey makes a quilt of his memories and things he loves. When Joey's hair falls out in clumps, his brother shaves his own head to be bald too and he calls them "two bald baby balloons." When Joey dies, his quilt is nearly done, just one last patch left; his brother stitches the final piece—two bald baby balloons. The language is poetically terse, the chosen words packed with meaning and allusion; e.g. "a gleam of guilt glided through my heart like a gleam of snake down a hole. Joey was sick but I was well." The questions the brother asks are those of a child. To the question: "Who will care for me when I die?" Gram answers, "God will." Moser's dark gray illustrations of graphite on gray paper effectively convey the grief and sorrow and four, color illustrations in his familiar style punctuate the haunting images. Even though neither title nor cover suggests the serious topic, this will be sought for its inspiration and consolation. A loving, poignant story that will join the ranks of a handful of others, which, like Joey's quilt with its last missing piece, help fill the gap for dealing realistically with its difficult subject. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
THE THREE LITTLE PIGS by Barry  Moser
adapted by Barry Moser, illustrated by Barry Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2001

The chubby piglets are very small, the wolf big, bony, and very bad, in this sly retelling of the familiar tale. Moser (Those Building Men, 2000, etc.) relates it in formal language, toning down the traditional story line's violence but adding plenty of biting (so to speak) humor with expressively drawn figures in deceptively sunny rural landscapes. The first two piggies exude misplaced confidence, and though they meet their ends offstage, the sight of the bloated wolf reclining amidst the wreckage between a bucket of clean bones and an empty jar of Bubba's BBQ Sauce (Moser decorates the label with a self-portrait) will leave no doubt as to their fate. The third pig does better, building his house with "No Wolf Brick" and following through with the traditional trip to the turnip field (boiling them in a "Lupus Ware" pot), the apple orchard, and the fair. He is last seen enjoying a tasty stew, made from "My Mama's Wolf Stew with Garlic," wearing wolfie slippers, and sporting a positively diabolical expression of satisfaction. Never has that big bad wolf been better served. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)Read full book review >
THOSE BUILDING MEN by Angela Johnson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

Vague text and anemic pictures make this at best a half-hearted tribute to the construction workers of the last century or so. In her brief, poetic text Johnson writes of "those shadowy building men . . . moving the earth to connect water," of "railroad workers . . . who were there to connect all." She continues: "As buildings tower above us / they tell the tales / of the cities . . . They whisper down past it all and say, / ‘They built us, your fathers . . .' " There is little here to engage child readers, either intellectually or emotionally, and Moser's remote, indistinct portraits of ordinary-looking men (only men) dressed in sturdy working clothes and, mostly, at rest, only intermittently capture any sense of individual or collective effort. In evident recognition of these inadequacies, a prose afterword has been added to explain what the book is about—a superfluous feature had Moser and Johnson produced work up to their usual standards. Let readers spend time more profitably with the likes of John Henry or Mike Mulligan. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
GRANDPA'S GAMBLE by Richard Michelson
Released: March 1, 1999

A young brother and sister can't understand why their grandfather prays all the time, instead of telling them exciting stories about his past. When he finally explains his habits, they hear Grandpa Sam's riveting tale, of the poverty and discrimination that forced him to leave his family and Poland, of emigrating to the US to find a new life, of scarce jobs, and of his decision to gamble for a living. He bought a home and raised a family, doing well until the day his wife became ill. The fear of losing her prompted his last bet—with God, to save his wife's life—to trade in gambling for a life of prayer. Michelson's story is both personal and universal, highlighting the discovery of family histories and hidden lives in people who are so much a part of every day. Moser's skilled sepia illustrations add an intimate touch to this poignant tale. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
THE BIRD HOUSE by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Rylant and Moser (The Dreamer, 1993, etc.) have teamed up again with this fable about a homeless girl and a kind old woman who lives in a bright blue house surrounded by birds. Birds scatter whenever the woman comes outdoors, but always return to be in the garden, to peer in the windows, and to perch on her shoulder. Drawn by the birds, a girl without home or family watches the house and the woman from the woods. When the birds fly into the sky to spell "GIRL" for the old woman to see, the skittish child flees. It takes the great barred owl, who otherwise hardly ever moves, to catch and hold her until the woman can find her. The story may be fanciful, but it touches on elemental themes of inclusion and exclusion, loneliness and love. Moser's transparent watercolor illustrations of the birds and the countryside are accurate and lovely; the child's trendy clogs and clean overalls contribute to an idealized atmosphere. Nevertheless, the illustration that show the girl crouching in the shadow of a stone bridge poignantly conveys her isolation and fear. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
TELLING TIME WITH BIG MAMA CAT by Dan Harper
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Harper's picture book features a day in the life of burly old Big Mama Cat as she eats, naps, shreds furniture, while an astonishing number of household clocks mark the time. Harper's text displays an enjoyable amount of drollery ("The sun reaches the new chair at 11:00. It's off-limits to me—but I can't resist. I'm helped down at 11:05"). The Mosers' watercolors are spectacular, drenched in subdued colors and elegant details, and getting the cat's gestures just right. Moments of coyness (the book titles in the house: Kitty In the Rye, The Milkman Cometh, etc.) can't mar this project, which includes a fold-out page of a clock with movable hands so readers can keep time with Big Mama's day. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
A BRILLIANT STREAK by Kathryn Lasky
BIOGRAPHY
Released: April 1, 1998

With an apparently infinite fascination with her subject (Samuel Clemens appears in her novel, Alice Rose and Sam, p. 341), Lasky says that "it would only be stretching the truth a little to say that Samuel Clemens had one of the longest childhoods in history." This intriguing biography of one of America's greatest humorists and wildest storytellers recounts the story of Clemens's life until age 30, when he took on his famous pen name. Beautifully illustrated in Moser's vigorous portraits are the details of Clemens's mischievous childhood, which began in 1835 in Missouri, the night a comet streaked across the sky. A penchant for stretching the truth with an overactive imagination and a fascination with danger became the basis for great stories of pranks and hoaxes; the man who became Mark Twain came to believe that "his main job as a reporter was not to bore his readers." His successes are the source of one colorful anecdote after another, which Lasky taps and twirls into an engaging narrative that glimmers with its own brand of brilliance. (Biography. 6-12) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

A consummate collection from the team behind When Birds Could Talk and Bats Could Sing (1996), combining witty prose with breathtaking watercolors. Hamilton economically delineates the history of and theories behind trickster tales, encompassing the slave trade, the Revolutionary War, and the intertwining of African and American influences. Folktales from America, the West Indies, and Africa follow, featuring the familiar animals—Buh Rabby, Cunnie Anansi, Bruh Buzzard, and others—who use wit and cunning to help others, but always take care of themselves first. Moser, in addition to playing tricks with various typefaces, chooses what detail of fur or animal face to portray, posing an animal on its back like a flirting cat, hanging upside down, or, in the case of a tiger, drowsing in a tree branch, the weight of his limbs palpable. Informative notes on each tale are given in the back of the book, interesting to general readers as well as to specialists. (Folklore. 5-11) Read full book review >
GOOD AND PERFECT GIFTS by Barry  Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

An illustrated reworking of O. Henry's ``The Gift of the Magi,'' set in present-day Appalachia. The struggling newlyweds are Fenton, an auto mechanic who is acquiring his own set of Snap-on tools, at the rate of one piece at a time, and Rebecca, a hairdresser and Sunday school teacher whose prized possession is a quilt that was a wedding present from her late mother. Fenton sells his tools to buy an antique chest for the quilt, but Rebecca has sold it to buy her husband a toolbox. Moser retains both the sweetness and the irony of O. Henry's story; the only jarring notes occur in some of the characters' names and in the region's speech patterns, which are overdone to the point of caricature. For the masterly illustrations, Moser works in watercolor on brown paper, keeping the pictures nearly monochromatic but for subdued touches of red, green, and blue. The timeless plot, painstakingly particularized in both text and pictures, will resonate with young readers. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
SAVING SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

In this story of a boy and his dog, and the brutal, angry man who finds the road to redemption at last, Naylor rounds off a trilogy that began with Shiloh (1991). The good news is that the dog doesn't die, although Marty, the narrator, gives readers that impression on the first page. Judd Travers has stopped drinking and become less hostile; nonetheless, years of bad feelings have left their mark, and his is the name that comes up most often in conjunction with a murder and some local robberies. Marty is half-willing to give Judd the benefit of the doubt—and so defends the man to schoolmates on the bus, and even pays him an occasional visit. Judd shows signs of authentic human feeling, actually laughing and joking (readers of the first two books will be shocked), and grieving when he must kill one of his hunting dogs. Judd proves innocent of the crimes, too, and in the climax risks his life to save Shiloh from drowning. That earns a hug from Marty, and only readers familiar with the first books will be able to appreciate how far Judd has come when he hugs back. Subplots and extraneous incidents loosen the story's weave, but Naylor's use of present tense adds immediacy to events, and Marty's path to reconciliation with Judd, and to a parallel truce with his pesky little sister Dara Lynn, will go straight to readers' hearts. (Fiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
ON CALL BACK MOUNTAIN by Eve Bunting
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1997

Joe and Ben anxiously await the annual summer return of their friend Bosco Burak, the elderly lookout in the fire tower that stands on the peak above their family's cabin. Although the forest was devastated by a fire that drove the animals away a few summers ago, Bosco tells the boys that there is new growth and that the animals will return to Call Back Mountain, just as Bosco always does. Every night that Bosco is on the tower, the boys signal goodnight with their lanterns, and Bosco's light answers. Then one night there is no answer—Bosco has had a fatal heart attack, and Ben and Joe must come to terms with his death. The night after Bosco's death, the boys spot a lone wolf with great shining eyes and long, spindly legs, just like Bosco's, on a ledge—the animals have returned. Simply written and gloriously illustrated, this tale of love, loss, and renewal lingers long after the last page is turned. Bunting (The Blue and the Gray, 1996, etc.) presents complex issues in a way that even very young readers will grasp. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
EVER HEARD OF AN AARDWOLF? by Madeline Moser
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

This striking collaboration between a book-making veteran and a picture-book newcomer (and father-and-daughter team) introduces 20 unusual animals, among them the zorilla, naked mole rat, viscacha, uakari, vicu§a, pangolin, and okapi. Many of the wood engravings span two pages; somber colors—black, burnt sienna, dull green, deep blue, lavender—dominate. Each animal portrait is framed in a wide black line and placed on a creamy background paper. The text is limited to a few sentences to pique the curiosity of children, who can find additional information in a fact section at the end. Scientific names are not given, and size, range, and habitat information is sketchy, but adventuresome readers, armed with this book, will not be shy about gathering more facts on these unlovely oddities. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8+) Read full book review >
WHEN WILLARD MET BABE RUTH by Donald Hall
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1996

The national pastime gets a bit of much-needed luster from the poet's touch. Young Willard Babson makes the acquaintance of Babe Ruth one day when he and his father pull the young, just-married pitcher's auto out of a New Hampshire ditch. From there, Hall (Lucy's Summer, 1995, etc.) builds a beautiful story about the twining of two lives over 20 years: one a farm boy, rapt in the pleasures of baseball and mesmerized by Ruth's style; the other, ``the best who ever played the game of baseball.'' Hanging over every event is the penumbral melancholy of those years, from the end of the First World War through the middle of the Great Depression—when baseball helped anchor a storm-tossed population. That feeling is enhanced by Moser's nostalgic watercolors, each an achingly sentimental tableau. Hall salts the tale with fine historical tidbits—from the mention of ``Fibber McGee and Molly'' to Al Smith's run for office- -as he moves the story to its emotional climax when Willard's daughter, a baseball fan named Ruth, meets her hero. A heartfelt piece of Americana from two old pros. (Fiction. 7+) Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1996

Joel Chandler Harris wasn't the only collector of African-American trickster tales; here are eight fables gathered (and some, perhaps, written) by Martha Young, his contemporary. Most of the lessons are pointed: Boasting that she can touch the sky, Brown Wren flies too high and has to be saved by larger birds; the "Still and Ugly Bat" was once beautiful but became so proud that she threw away her feathers and songs; Bruh Buzzard doesn't wait quite long enough for Fair Maid the horse to die. and gets a lick in the head that leaves him bald ever after. In several stories, birds help human or animal friends; when young Alcee Lingo gets the chills, Blue Jay and Swallow steal fire from old Firekeeper, and Cardinal gets his brilliant color by wiping blood from a hunter's near-miss off Bruh Deer. Hamilton (Her Stories, 1995, etc.) recasts the thick dialect of the originals into fluent, musical prose that demands to be read aloud, and to which Moser's exact, energetic paintings of brightly colored birds—all sporting bonnets or top hats and very human expressions—make perfect accompaniment. First published in local newspapers and not available in book form since the 1970s, these wry, comic, tender tales should at last find the wide audience they deserve. (Folklore. 7-10) Read full book review >
EAGLE BOY by Gerald Hausman
adapted by Gerald Hausman, illustrated by Barry Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 29, 1996

A wonderful and unique Navajo legend from the trio behind Turtle Island ABC (1994, not reviewed) about the first boy to learn the ways of the eagles. Two birds feed him magic cornmeal, wrap him up into different shades of light, and whisk him up to the house of the Eagle Chief above the clouds. After a series of peculiar, slightly mystical adventures—in the course of which he turns into a coyote and back again—he comes back down to his parents. The tale gains distinction by relying not on suspense, but on unexpected transformations. The pictures—in the softest pastels- -take on the colors of the sky: peach and orange tones on the bottom, white in the middle, blues on top. The few figures—a boy here, an eagle there—are rather sentimental, although their infrequent use contributes to the mood and setting. Most of the pages, filled with big cloudy expanses, serve as background for the text. (Picture book/folklore. 5-9) Read full book review >
BINGLEMAN'S MIDWAY by Karen Ackerman
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

The narrator goes with his father to Bingleman's Midway, a carnival set up not far from their Ohio farmhouse. That night he runs away to join up; after a call from Bingleman, his father comes to claim him, surprisingly understanding. Ackerman (The Night Crossing, 1994, etc.) demonstrates a refined sense of detail and dialogue, and a large, colorful lexicon; she is something of a virtuoso in her choice of expressions. Moser's luminous watercolors are Vermeer-like in their depiction of degrees of light and in the angles from which they're drawn—cropped and framing the action from a point of view beyond the book. If Ackerman positions herself inside the story, Moser is outside; jointly they effect the lure of the midway, perhaps appreciated most by those who can never be part of it. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
WHAT YOU KNOW FIRST by Patricia MacLachlan
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 30, 1995

A superb writer presents the themes of leave-taking and memory that recur frequently in her novels, beautifully distilled into a picture book. From Skylark (1994), MacLachlan expands one phrase (``. . .she can't help remembering what she knew first'') into a story about a family's wrenching departure from their prairie farm and a young girl's determination to remember every detail. The spare text and Moser's haunting engravings are poignantly nostalgic; adults reading this out loud will find the combination affecting, but it may be less meaningful to children, with their limited experience of change and more concrete ways of thinking. The circumstances compelling the family's move are never explained; drought isn't the reason, and the narrator's question, ``Why are we leaving if everyone's so sad?'' is likely to echo readers' thoughts. Black- and-white with the barest hint of tint and as still and posed as old photographs, the atmospheric illustrations may puzzle the young: A man is disappearing from the frame in the frontispiece; the heads of the adults are cut off by the cropping of a family grouping. With very little book-talking, younger readers will take away from this as much as older ones; no one will fail to appreciate the gentle flow of words and understated sentiments. (Picture book. 7+) Read full book review >
THE IRON WOMAN by Ted Hughes
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

A gigantic Iron Woman rises out of a swamp in order to destroy a factory that is poisoning rivers and killing fish. She befriends Lucy, whose father works at the factory, and who is therefore anxious to find a less violent way to stop the pollution of the environment. Lucy enlists the help of the Iron Man (from The Iron Giant, 1988). He and Iron Woman turn the men who work at the factory into fish so they will learn what it's like to live in poisoned water. The scenes of transformation are followed by a bewildering chain of supernatural events that is finally resolved in a utopian ending (in a place where industrial waste turns magically into fuel). At the service of a primitively moralizing theme, Hughes puts a sophisticated descriptive apparatus capable of producing subtle atmospheric effects and delicate metaphors. Punctuating the novel are Moser's black-and-white engravings, a welcome addition to Hughes's verbal images, but with few pictures and even fewer conversations, the book makes for slow reading. The plot is dwarfed by extended metaphors that constitute the central thread of the novel (the Iron Woman rising from the mud, the men turning into fish). These images are evocative enough, but the bluntness with which they all point to the same unimaginative moralprotect the environment!makes them hard to swallow. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
WHISTLING DIXIE by Marcia Vaughan
ANIMALS
Released: March 30, 1995

Dixie Lee can't hep' herse'f. She keeps bringing home critters from Hokey Pokey Swamp: an alligator, a snake, an owl, pets she intends to keep to ward off churn turners stealing buttermilk stored in the well, a bogeyman set on taking some dentures, and the mist sisters who leave bad luck wherever they go. Mama has her reservations, but the creatures prove their worth and Dixie Lee's bestiary takes a place in their home. Gobbets of the deep, swampy South find a comfortable niche in this tale—buttermilk churns and gomper jars and watery phantoms; there's no question that the great dismal harbors things both creepy and friendlike—while the southern crawl to the narrative brings Dixieland alive. The sing- song spirit of the wording, along with flurries of rhymes—sets the stage for an atmospheric read-aloud. Moser's dexterous watercolor images are trademark—just this side of sentimentality, with moody ethereal interpretations alternating with formal, minutely observed still lifes. An uptempo regional tale; you may not want a snake protecting your gompers, but it's better than the bogeyman wearing them around. Read full book review >
CLOUD EYES by Kathryn Lasky
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

This woolly-headed fable, trying to re-create the qualities of Native-American myth, tells of a visionary young Indian who restores honey to his tribe. He sees how the bears in the woods destroy beehives and, borrowing knowledge from a queen bee, he turns himself into a bear, dances his bear brothers into a deep sleep, then teaches his people how to take honey from the bees in a more respectful and environmentally correct way. And when the bears wake up, he calms them by dancing again. Lasky's (Days of the Dead, p. 1421, etc.) storytelling wanders and the plot doesn't make a bit of sense, either on a literal or a metaphorical level; the self-consciously lyrical language is downright tedious. Moser has contributed meticulous mood-setting pencil drawings in which you can see every hair of the bears' fur, but they're too soft-edged and subtle to really spark kids' imaginations. This book pushes all the trendy buttons, but it's too precious. Basically a real yawn. (Fiction/Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
I AM THE DOG, I AM THE CAT by Donald Hall
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

In the manner of the insects in Paul Fleischman's Joyful Noise (1988, Newbery Medal), a dog and cat express their views on themselves, their world, and each other. Renowned poet Hall's succinct declarations are right on target (``Dog: Making the acquaintance of babies,/I allow them to pull my hair./I do not like it,/but I allow it, for/ I am the dog./Cat: When babies come into the house,/I try to vanish./Babies are crazy!/Babies sit on you''). Hall captures the foibles and idiosyncrasies of both pets, straying only occasionally from witty scrutiny of animal behavior into anthropomorphic projection (``Cat: The dog amuses me''). Moser's candid portraits are equally apt: A baleful, pyramidal, lime-eyed cat glowers over its dish; a wary UPS man peers past weighty boxes at the even weightier Rottweiler; dog and cat snooze in concert while a mouse creeps past. He makes grand compositions of everything from a cat's tail poking ignominiously from beneath a rug to a dog sniffing a hydrant. A delight. Don't forget to enlist a second voice for sharing aloud. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
THE FARM SUMMER 1942 by Donald Hall
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1994

The noted poet and author of Ox-Cart Man describes a nine- year-old's summer on his grandparents' New Hampshire farm while his dad's in the South Pacific and his mother works ``on a secret project...for the war effort.'' Peter flies across the country but ends his journey in a buggy; Hall rounds out an evocatively detailed description of traditional farm life with Peter's reunion with Dad back home in San Francisco. But the chief glory of this beautifully crafted book is Moser's watercolor art, in which the details—from the sun glancing off Peter's freshly ironed shirt to the contrast between the military bearing of a newel post and the more relaxed stance of the uniformed father as he welcomes his son—are statements of pure design as well as singularly pleasing depictions of the warm relationships, wholesome setting, and exquisitely observed farm animals. Nostalgia at its best. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
TUCKER PFEFFERCORN by Barry  Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1994

As he did with The Tinderbox (1990), Moser sets a story based on ``Rumpelstiltskin'' in Appalachia and updates its themes. Bessie Grace Kinzalow is no feckless maiden; she's a self-reliant young widow who earns a living picking cotton. Her oppressor is local tyrant Hezakiah Sweatt (a mine- and landowner whose ``thugs'' killed Bessie's husband), who overhears an inventive storyteller saying that Bessie can spin cotton into gold. Sweatt demands that she prove it or lose her baby; she's rescued by a little man who spins the gold, causes Sweatt's mysterious disappearance (``Some said he was done in by a bunch of miners...''), demands the baby as pay, but splits in two when Bessie guesses his name. Though the old tale and injustice in the rural South make rather odd companions (Moser's story has dramatic energy and a good oral lilt, but its darker added import seems obscure), the watercolor portraits of the principals are outstanding—mellow codgers trading tales; grim Sweatt in pin- stripes and suspenders, the essence of cold evil; plausible little Tucker Pfeffercorn, not really as nice as he seems. Worth pondering. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
ARIADNE, AWAKE! by Doris Orgel
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1994

A novella-length adaptation of the myth in a large, handsome format that's much enhanced by the arresting perspectives and pellucid Grecian light in Moser's elegantly crafted watercolor portraits. Ariadne describes her role in vanquishing the Minotaur, Theseus's abandoning her on Naxos, and her union with Dionysus. Orgel selects details skillfully, shaping the narrative to a dignity appropriate to the myth. She also gives it emotional coherence by providing Ariadne with compelling reasons to betray her father and her half-brother the Minotaur, and by suggesting that Theseus's inconstancy—which he tells Ariadne is because ``the gods are jealous of our love''—also has to do with an Athenian girl. On the other hand, though she details the remarkable means by which the Minotaur was conceived, Orgel evades some of the implications of Ariadne's ``wedding.'' She's neither priestess nor debauchee here; she and Dionysus simply have ``many children together [and teach] people the arts of cultivating grapes and making wine.'' A note exploring sources and the author's philosophy in creating her version would have been a real plus. Still, a dramatic introduction to a fascinating myth. (Fiction. 9+) Read full book review >
A GAME OF CATCH by Richard Wilbur
POETRY
Released: March 1, 1994

Seemingly amiable play becomes anything but in a distinguished poet's brief, disturbing story, first published 40 years ago in the New Yorker. When Scho finds he can't play hard catch with Monk and Glennie because he doesn't have a mitt, he climbs a tree and gleefully informs them that his will controls their every move. Monk finally grows annoyed enough at this game to climb after Scho, who falls to the ground. ``I want you to do whatever you're going to do for the whole rest of your life,'' he croaks—in mingled triumph and misery—after the departing pair. Moser gives this encounter a deceptively idyllic setting, grassy and sun-drenched, while Scho's angry, dejected posture makes a powerful contrast to the others' poised and graceful remoteness. Like Julie Brinckloe's Playing Marbles (1988), an exploration of play-as-metaphor whose symbolic levels will be more perceptible to adults than to children. (Picture book. 8+) Read full book review >
THE DREAMER by Cynthia Rylant
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

An all-star rendition of the creation makes an appropriate entry for the Blue Sky imprint's inaugural list. Rylant brings the Creator down to earth in a conversational, unassuming narrative, depicting him as a shy young artist who dreams, tests new ideas, and makes other ``artist[s] in his own image'' in order to have someone to share the pleasure in his works. He ``has always called them his children. And they, in turn, have always called him God,'' the author concludes, finally equating the artist with the deity. Moser's elegantly simple compositions reflect the straightforward tone and sense of a primeval beauty within the everyday world; he shows the stars being clipped out with scissors held in sturdy hands, while the artist also appears as a misty figure beneath the dramatic silhouette of an aging pine, imagining the animal kingdom yet to come. An attractively developed concept, nondoctrinal yet reverent, that would be interesting to compare to Eric Carle's Draw Me a Star (1992). (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
FLY! by Barry  Moser
by Barry Moser, illustrated by Barry Moser
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

Subtitle: A Brief History of Flight Illustrated. As a kid, Moser says, he loved to draw pictures of airplanes, and he still does. Choosing key moments in aviation history, he accompanies three-quarter-spread watercolors with a brief text (expanded in lengthy ``Historical Notes'') and an idiosyncratic timeline, running along the bottom of each page, ranging from the invention of ice cream to the Russian Revolution. (``1936, Life magazine first published. 1939, film The Wizard of Oz appears. 1940, penicillin developed,'' etc.) Who's to say his priorities are wrong? The illustrations are evocative and handsomely structured- -but, for the subject, static. Good browsing. Bibliography. (Nonfiction. 8+) Read full book review >
THE MAGIC HARE by Lynne Reid Banks
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

Ten fanciful tales about a hare with magical powers who rescues maidens from vampires, dragons, or their own fears; christens a tiny flower that had been overlooked (the harebell, of course); makes an end of one horrible giant and reforms another; cures assorted royalty of their hiccups, greed, and bad temper; and meets his match in a black witch who works white magic to turn Hare into a human for one brief, uncomfortable moment. Wonderful readalouds (though a few end rather abruptly, and some British expressions may need explaining), with humor, suspense, and some implied messages about environmental responsibility and valuing one's own talents. Moser (Jump! The Tales of Brer Rabbit) may be the best illustrator of rabbits since Beatrix Potter; this one has startling green eyes and a bit of a grin. The ten full-page portraits here pose colorful characters against dark backgrounds; the villainous ones are most satisfactorily revolting. A refreshing alternative to standard fairy tales. (Fiction. 6+) Read full book review >
GRASS SONGS by Ann Turner
POETRY
Released: March 1, 1993

Turner's historical fiction (Katie's Trunk, 1992, etc.) is notable for putting a human face on great events; these 17 poems, all in the first person and inspired by the letters and diaries of pioneer women on the westward journey, are even more vivid and personalized. The collection begins with the exultation of throwing off the confinements of civilized female life (``I scream into the wind,/ race after cattle,/...and reach so high my waist tears,/ and no one can say/ I am not a lady'') and ends with a woman tending a plant she's carried to Oregon from her mother's Arkansas garden. In between are marriage, childbirth (and maternal death), Indian raids (one survivor miraculously finds her kidnapped child safe in California; another, who lived for years with the Mohave and was recaptured by Anglos, never ceases grieving for her Indian husband and sons), and a trail of graves in the wagons' wake. There are also dreams: Amanda Hays secretly reads the Odyssey by moonlight; behind her workaday faáade she dreams of ecstatic union with an ancient deity. Another woman dreams only of home: ``...just give me a porch, a song,/ peace.'' Moser's pencil drawings (mostly portraits), based on historical photos, are riveting. Unforgettable. (Poetry. 12+) Read full book review >
MESSIAH by George Friedrich Handel
MUSIC AND THE ARTS
Released: Oct. 30, 1992

Young people will not be the primary audience for this elegant volume, but it'll greatly appeal to a limited number of all ages. As explained in Christopher Hogwood's interesting scholarly introduction—which also discusses the oratorio's history—the scriptural words were selected and edited by Charles Jennens on Handel's behalf. They're reprinted here with marginal biblical citations printed in red, as are titles and other headings. Moser adds 16 stunning watercolors—some quite realistic (notably the suffering Christ); some almost purely symbolic; all with a powerful simplicity of color and image. An outstandingly handsome book, focusing on the splendid words Handel set to music. (Nonfiction. 6+) Read full book review >
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST by Nancy Willard
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

In a briefer recasting of Leprince Beaumont's beloved tale than McKinley's fine novelization (1978), Willard grounds the story in the opulent materialism of the late 19th century, with Beauty's father as a wealthy New York merchant; their country retreat is in the Hudson Valley, where the Beast's magical Victorian mansion fits right in with a region renowned for supernatural happenings. Willard's telling is brisk but lyrical, of course, the lovely romantic touches delicately balanced with wry humor. There are but two sisters here, as self-serving as Cinderella's; in an abruptly vengeful conclusion, they become a pair of andirons. Otherwise, the tone is gentle, with much of the interest in the enchanting details of the Beast's magical home and garden. Moser provides 14 wood engravings, handsome but rather austere for attracting much of the book's natural audience. There are telling (but distancing) portraits of Beauty and her sisters; a poignant take on the beast—deformed face, haunted eyes; the brooding mansion; and, representing the denouement, a chaste pair of hands, not quite clasped. A felicitous retelling, in an elegant format that leaves plenty of ``scope for the imagination.'' (Fiction. 6+) Read full book review >
THE MAGIC WOOD by Henry Treece
POETRY
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

``The wood is full of shining eyes,/The wood is full of creeping feet,/The wood is full of tiny cries:/You must not go to the wood at night,'' runs the refrain of this poem (c. 1945) about a mysterious man whose eyes turn to fire and whose nails grow to inordinate length before the narrator says his prayers and finds himself safe ``on my father's land.'' Moser sets the nine quatrains in gold against solid black and slightly modeled, deep turquoise illustrations sparked with stars and glittering eyes. Along with the ominous hairy-faced man, there are all sorts of eerie creatures lurking among these twisted trees. Skillfully manipulating his medium and his readers, Moser provides a dramatic visual exposition of Treece's intriguing verse. (Poetry/Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
THROUGH THE MICKLE WOODS by Valiska Gregory
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

A stately, elegantly cadenced tale about a king who reluctantly obeys his queen's last request: to go with young Michael, taking her ring to the bear in the ``mickle'' (great) woods. Though the king's responses are gruff, the old bear tells them stories—of a wealthy man who has a box of answers, but not the right questions; of a frail bird who sings despite life's perils; of a weaver who learns that everything must be included if his pattern is to be strong. Hearing, debating, pondering, the king learns to bear his grief and take comfort in the boy his wife had loved. An ambitious story, driven more by idea than by plot, but told with a contagious sense of wonder. As he does for Treece's poem (below), Moser creates a dramatic forest with dark colors on black (here touched with snow or gleams of light), interspersed with character studies and vignettes of the bear's stories. A worthy, serious effort in a growing genre: picture books for older readers. (Fiction/Picture book. 6-11) Read full book review >
POLLY VAUGHN by Barry  Moser
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1992

As he did with Andersen's The Tinderbox (1990), Moser transplants a traditional British ballad with interesting parallels to Romeo and Juliet to Appalachia, a likely enough setting for the tragedy of a young man who, mistaking his beloved for a deer, shoots her and then is hanged for murder. The transformation from song to story is less satisfactory: though Moser's narrative reads smoothly, it runs to rather prosaic explanations, whereas a ballad's power is derived from leaving all but the essentials to the imagination. The book is handsomely designed, including one of Moser's compelling portraits or set pieces on each double spread (but not the original ballad, about which readers are sure to be curious). It's not necessarily an anti-hunting story, but it does raise the issue; certainly it's a love story with appeal for older children and possibly teenagers. A mostly successful attempt to clothe a classic tale in new attire. (Fiction. 8-14) Read full book review >
NOAH'S CATS AND THE DEVIL'S FIRE by Arielle North--Adapt. Olson
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1992

In a Romanian version of the biblical story, the devil disguises himself as a mouse and sneaks aboard the Ark after Noah orders him away. Repeatedly, the devil-mouse contrives mischief; but Noah fails to see the dirt after the mouse bathes in his washbowl, only noticing how pleasantly warm the water is; and when it gnaws holes in the grain sacks, he is happy to find that the ducks have already been fed. The devil's worst miscalculation is in enlisting the two real mice to help gnaw through the hull; Noah knows that three is the wrong number and calls his cats, who oust the intruder—thus acquiring sparks in their fur. Olson's vigorous retelling compels attention with its use of concrete, amusing detail. Moser sets the story in a rain-drenched world with many of the full-bleed illustrations painted in black watercolor on a ground of luminous deep blue-green, like the eerie light of a violent summer storm. Other illustrations are dramatic close-ups, their low vantage points and cropped edges pulling the viewer into awesome scenes: the red-eyed mouse peering from the gloom beneath a lion's face; the fuming devil, a gargoyle of fire and dark. Here, Moser, known for his subtle portraits, not only interprets and enriches the story with intriguing detail but propels it with the design's flow from page to page; as for St. Jerome and the Lion (1991), Moser's elegant typography incorporates exquisite calligraphic titles. An outstandingly handsome setting for a winner of a story. (Folklore/Picture book. 5-11) Read full book review >
KASHTANKA by Anton Chekhov
ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 7, 1991

After the little dog Kashtanka is separated from her master, who spends the day wandering from customer to tavern to relative, she is taken in by a man who feeds her better than her master ever did and begins to train her: he's a clown whose act already includes a boar, a cat, and a goose. When the goose suddenly dies, Kashtanka is pressed into service—and is recognized and reclaimed by her original master and his son, who happen to be in the audience. The rather long, quiet story has been ``translated for young readers'' (does this mean adapted? We couldn't find the original, but the style seems less rich and colorful than in Chekhov's other stories); it is illustrated with Moser's usual gallery of skillfully wrought paintings, including several incisive portraits (the half-madeup clown could be Olivier), appealing glimpses of the dog, and some memorable compositions. Not essential, but good bookmaking. (Fiction/Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
THE ALL JAHDU STORYBOOK by Virginia Hamilton
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

In 1969, Hamilton published The Time-Ago Tales of Jahdu, four tales about a trickster boy-hero who expressed his sense of freedom by "running along" and whose favorite exclamation was "Woogily!" Like those in Time-Ago Lost (1973), they were set in a framing story about "Mama Luka" in "a fine, good place called Harlem," telling her stories to young Lee Edward. Now Hamilton drops the framing story, adds a central section ("Jahdu Adventure") with four new pieces (including one involving the giant Trouble as a robot and one in which Jahdu encounters several folkloric characters), and tightens and reshapes the whole. By eliminating the explicit celebration of pride in the black experience, she highlights the rich blend of creation myths, philosophies, and folklore that inspired these tales; they seem more universal here than they did in the earlier setting. But they are still not easy; like the later books in the Justice series, they can be hard to follow, their events imposed by symbols that seem arbitrarily intertwined. Still, the language is vigorous and masterfully honed, while the character of lively, powerful, self-defining Jahdu has appeal even though some of his adventures are less than compelling. Moser contributes the attractive design and 20 beautifully painted glimpses of the scenes and characters in Jahdu's world. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
AND STILL THE TURTLE WATCHED by Sheila MacGill-Callahan
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

An old man carves a turtle in a rock as a symbol of the All- Father who watches over the Delawares. The turtle observes the years go by, white men clearing the land, the city invading the peace—and finally the hoods who spray-paint his eyes so that he can no longer see. Then a man recognizes the Native American artifact beneath the graffiti and arranges for the rock to be displayed indoors, in New York's Botanical Garden, where it can actually be seen. Moser's beautifully balanced book design and powerful paintings ably contribute to the story's dignity and purpose. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
JOURNEY by Patricia MacLachlan
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Acting on the yearning expressed in the name she gave her son 11 years ago, Journey's mother has gone, leaving him with his grandparents and his older sister Cat. Mama sends money from time to time but no word or address. While Cat works out her distress by enlarging the farm garden, Journey struggles with his memories and tries to assign blame: Is it his fault that Mama left? Or is Grandfather, who's now preoccupied with snapping photos with the camera Mama also abandoned, an appropriate target for his anger? In supple, exquisitely economical style, MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall, Newbery Award, 1986) unfolds Journey's discoveries and insights along the way to his recognition that it's Grandfather—not the father who fled when he was a baby, not even Mama—who has always cared for him like a parent. In a symbolic act that Cat describes as ``murder,'' Mama ripped the family photos into tiny pieces that can never be rejoined; Grandfather is not only learning to take new photos but has found and is printing the old negatives. Meanwhile, a cat (``Bloom'') has insinuated herself into the family despite Grandma's aversion (she loves birds) and has given birth; and Journey has continued his friendship with Cooper, whose warm, happy family provides a healthy model: not perfect, but good enough—as Journey can finally describe their own family when Mama eventually telephones. Vintage MacLachlan: uniquely memorable people; a funny, pungent, compact, and wonderfully wise story. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8+)*justify no* Read full book review >
ST. JEROME AND THE LION by Margaret Hodges
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Aug. 1, 1991

This medieval legend of the early monk who lived in Bethlehem and translated the Bible into Latin is such a wonderful story that it's surprising it hasn't been retold more often. Like Androcles, Jerome makes friends with a lion by removing a thorn from his paw. The lion stays on, his task to keep watch over the monastery donkey. Then the donkey disappears. The other monks think the lion has eaten it, but Jerome refuses to condemn him; instead, he asks the lion to do the donkey's work. Eventually, the lion finds the donkey and brings it home—together with the camels belonging to the merchants who stole it. The tale's essential harmony shines in Hodges's graceful narrative, Jerome's patient wisdom counterpointed by the quiet interplay among donkey, lion, and a jealous dog that also learns to accept the lion. Moser's elegant design, featuring a taste of exquisite calligraphy and austere rule in brilliant red, provides the perfect setting for his marvelously expressive watercolors: intense portraits of the contemplative saint; beautifully understated night scenes in shades of blue; the awe-inspiring lion, noble, fierce, yet tender. Luminous and altogether splendid. (Folklore/Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
APPALACHIA by Cynthia Rylant
NONFICTION
Released: April 1, 1991

``All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds...'' concludes Rylant's introductory quote here: James Agee describing his family companionably sharing quilts beneath the summer stars. In her own carefully pitched, melodious voice, Rylant describes the people of her homeland—their hard work; their living conditions (often simple, but ``the houses in Appalachia are as different as houses anywhere''); crafts and customs, seasons and cycles. It's not a romanticized view, but it's affectionate (Appalachian people ``have no sourness about them...though they are shy toward outsiders''); adroitly evoking all the senses, Rylant makes it easy to understand why ``Those who do go off...nearly always come back.'' Adapting some of his exquisitely composed watercolors from documentary photos by masters like Walker Evans, Moser extends the aura of tranquil celebration. Richer, subtler, better crafted, but less dramatic than Siebert's regional tributes (Heartland, 1989) a special book for creative sharing.~(Nonfiction/Picture book. 8+) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1990

This rollicking tall tale, based on a story told to Kesey by his grandmother, was published twice, "in different form," in books for adults; this is its first appearance in a format that will also appeal to children. Both story and telling are splendid. Big Double is "HONGRY!. . .grumpy grouchy bedtime bigtime hongry. . .when I hit the hay tonight I got six months before breakfast so I need a supper the size of my sleep." In classic style, he catches and gulps down three other animals, the chase amusingly escalating each time; but the squirrel who has been watching turns the tables with a satisfyingly funny, appropriate trick. Moser contributes a dozen of his grand watercolor portraits and superbly crafted scenes, nicely touched with humor: a rabbit, grimacing and cleaning his ear with a parsnip; the bear, seen from a vertiginous perspective, hurtling downhill after the luckless rabbit. Kesey's frequent italics aren't essential, but they're expertly placed and remind the reader that this is the sort of lively, comical tale that demands reading aloud—a perfect picture book to share with older children. Read full book review >
RELIGION
Released: Sept. 10, 1988

A leading author and illustrator collaborate in a fine compilation of creation myths—a basic component of any folklore collection. Each of the 25 stories is told in spare, dignified language appropriate to its source and is followed by a brief discussion of its origin and type. While many cultures are included, there is more emphasis on presenting a variety of mythological figures and interpretations than on equal representation. Five stories come from the Americas, from Eskimo to Mayan; four from the Pacific, including Australia; five from Africa. There are a few stories from Europe and Asia, five from the ancient Mediterranean world (including three of the Greek myths), and the concluding piece is from Genesis, shining as the brightest in this bright firmament. Moser's dark, powerful portraits of the Creators are dramatically framed in stark white. A rich mix of fascinating stories, making an excellent introduction to myths and their cross-cultural connections. Memorable bookmaking. List of sources. Read full book review >
I REMEMBER GRANDPA by Truman Capote
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 1987

Written by the late Capote at age 22 as a gift for an aunt, this is an innocuous, very faintly charming short story about a boy and his parents leaving the boy's childhood West Virginia farm home ("a trip. . .further than I'd ever taken before") and leaving the boy's grandparents behind. Oversize pages; ten sometimes highly striking—and sometimes saccharine—color illustrations (by Barry Moser) on glossy photographic paper, each of them detachable from the page. Providing at best a minor if affectionate footnote to the author's work, the story first appeared in Redbook magazine for December of 1986. Read full book review >