Books by C.B. Mordan

OH, RATS! by Albert Marrin
Released: Aug. 1, 2006

The lore and science of rats receive an enthusiastic treatment in this handsome volume. Marrin adopts a personal tone, beginning his exploration with an anecdote from his youth and then presenting fact after cool fact about these "champions of survival." Several short chapters discuss the biology and behavior of the rat, the history of rats and people, rats as food, the diseases carried by rats and the difficulty of getting rid of them. Well-designed sidebars present additional related factoids for the eager reader. What those readers will notice first, however, are Mordan's striking black-and-white illustrations, enhanced with shades of red to heighten their subject's sinister nature. That these decidedly creepy illustrations are at times at odds with the enthusiasm of the text does nothing to diminish their effectiveness. The black, white and red design lends a vaguely antique air to the whole; the landscape orientation emphasizes the horizontal slinkiness of its subject. End matter provides both the author's bibliography and a number of titles for further reading, both nonfiction and fiction. Even the most rat-o-phobic reader will emerge with a heightened appreciation for the hardy rodent. (Nonfiction. 9-13)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2005

This account of scientists who have used their own bodies and minds as subjects of experimentation forms a satisfyingly gruesome exploration of scientific dedication. George Fordyce explored the limits of the human ability to endure extreme heat and helped to explain why "it's not the heat; it's the humidity"; Daniel Carrión's self-infection with the deadly verruga peruana resulted in his death and the renaming of the disease in his honor; Marie Curie's experimentation with radium killed her but led to radiation therapy. Although these men and women, and several others introduced in this fascinating tome, were often viewed as crackpots, the text makes clear that it was their willingness to suffer that has led to many significant medical advances. The text is often sprightly and delivers just the right factoids to keep up flagging interest. Mordan's clean inked portraits and details supplement archival illustrations; sidebars and chapter-ending "Now We Know" segments extend the information presented in the narrative. An introduction warns readers not to try these experiments on themselves; an author's note informs readers of their methodology and approach to source material. Solid and fascinating. (Nonfiction. 10+)Read full book review >
by Avi, illustrated by C.B. Mordan
Released: March 1, 2003

An ambitious and largely successful attempt to capture the magic of silent movies in picture-book format. Glossy, black-and-white ink drawings are boxed and surrounded by solid black space to create the feeling of film screens in a darkened theater, and the text's brevity evokes silent movie captions: "Crowded—for three long weeks," or "A little money at last." The story is of a Swedish family's immigration to New York in 1909; at first, details are realistic: the ship is crowded, family members have difficulty finding each other in the big city, and money and food are scarce. However, events soon take a dramatic turn when young Gustave is discovered by a famous movie director and chosen as the newest child star. His inability to speak English doesn't matter because the movies are silent, and by the end he is earning the enormous sum of $100 per week. Gustave's new career also reunites the family: Papa, who couldn't locate his wife and son when their ship docked, sees Gustave on screen and comes running to the studio. Large pictures show dramatic moments while smaller sequential ones show speed and action. At the end, Mama, Papa, and Gustave pose in expensive clothing over the caption "The new American family," romanticizing the immigrant experience. Arresting illustrations and, except for the extreme financial success at the end that is atypical of silent movie endings, a compelling homage to a beloved art form. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
F IS FOR FREEDOM by Roni Schotter
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Eleven years before the Civil War, the seeds of internal discontent took root when Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, a fugitive slave law designed to pacify slave owners in the South, when California was admitted as a free state, upsetting the balance of power. Ten-year-old Manda and her parents harbor runaway slaves from North Carolina in their New York home, as lawmen and bounty hunters seek to enforce this new law with a vengeance. The danger involved in escaping and assisting with an escape becomes clear to the reader, as does the need to flee from the US into Canada. When Manda learns that nine-year-old Hannah was whipped by her former owner for merely opening a book she was dusting, Manda sets out to teach her the alphabet and empower her with knowledge that can never be taken away. Manda nearly exposes both families to danger, however, when she takes Hannah outside to get a taste of physical freedom. Plans are then expedited to ensure the safety of both parties. Manda is selected to lead the slave family through a hidden escape tunnel to meet up with another member of the Underground Railroad and a packet boat that will transport them to the border of New York and ultimate freedom in Canada. In a simple story fraught with tension, Schotter has found a way to bring this history lesson to life for children no older than brave Manda and indomitable Hannah. (Fiction. 7-12)Read full book review >
LOST! by Paul Fleischman
Kirkus Star
by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by C.B. Mordan
Released: June 1, 2000

In this story within a story, a grandmother entertains her granddaughter with a string story when the girl laments the loss of electricity during a storm that eliminates all her usual forms of electronic entertainment. The internal story concerns a girl who goes into a snowstorm to find and bring home her wounded dog. She survives due to her wits and resourcefulness. On each page, a string figure becomes a part of the story, with the figure displayed at the bottom of the page in miniature. The grandmother confides that she was the girl in the story and challenges her granddaughter to think of something to do without the use of electricity. In a nice open-ended finale, the girl is seen starting her own string story. Back matter contains a brief history of string figures ("the handheld video games of their time"), instructions on making a string loop, carefully illustrated step-by-step directions for making each figure, and a bibliography. Fleischman's (Big Talk, 2000, etc.) figures are new inventions, but require common moves. They build on each other and many of them have potential for movement (the bow "shoots"). The illustrations created in ink on clayboard look like fine etchings and are appropriate to the old-fashioned tale. Unfortunately, a creaky, didactic opening introduces a grandmother whose speech is unbelievably quaint for a 21st-century woman acquainted with modern technology. Nevertheless, this unique book offers several fascinating points of entry and will be enjoyed in many ways. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >