Books by Cynthia Cotten

THE BOOK BOAT'S IN by Cynthia Cotten
Released: April 1, 2013

"Jesse's pride of ownership and the closing scene of Jesse writing his name and the year in his very first book will resonate with book lovers of all ages. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A pleasing historical tale about a boy willing to work hard for what he desires most—a book. Read full book review >
RAIN PLAY by Cynthia Cotten
Released: April 1, 2008

The children in Steptoe's crumpled-tissue collages don't leave the playground when the sky darkens or the rain starts coming down more and more heavily—but come a FLASH! and a BOOM!, it's "Uh-oh. / Time to go. / Hurry, hurry, / scoot and scurry." Superimposed on the art's wrinkled surfaces, the text's short couplets won't be a challenge even for newly emergent readers, and the laughing, brown- and yellow-skinned figures dance through the elongated raindrops with infectiously joyous abandon. The stream of rainy-day tales never seems to abate, but this stands out as one of the simplest, both in language and feeling. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
Released: May 9, 2007

As 12-year-old Michael and his family arrive at Grandma and Grandpa's farm for their annual summer stay, an ambulance pulls away, its siren silent. Shockingly, Grandpa, with whom Michael had an especially important bond, has died. Through the ensuing summer and fall, grief is both repressed and expressed, often poignantly. Michael, who excels in art and struggles with math, fears that his father, busy with teaching high school and working on a math dissertation, is too preoccupied to help. The boy trades yard-work for Saturday art lessons with his dad's former colleague, and faces another setback when he learns that Mr. Andrews has a cancer that's returned. Cotten's prose is often stiff, and the supporting characters are thinly sketched. The rapport between Michael and Mr. Andrews seems baldly plot-driven rather than organically revealed. But Michael's struggle with a tumult of emotional issues (abandonment, loneliness and new attachments, both to Mr. Andrews and a classmate, Melanie) is affectingly portrayed, and this earnest, welcome example of realistic middle-grade fiction stands out among the continuing glut of fantasy novels. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
SOME BABIES SLEEP by Cynthia Cotten
Released: Jan. 1, 2007

Cotten's latest is cleverly formatted to suit different audiences. Relating the different ways and places that animal babies sleep, the gentle rhymes make this perfect for bedtime. At the same time, the text provides clues that point to animals that are not pictured, making this ideal for wakeful times and group readings. "Some babies sleep / in a warm, cozy nest. / Some babies find / that a stall suits them best." Featuring mammals and marsupials, there are also allusions to some aquatic and avian animals. Tong's oil paintings use soft colors and moonlight illumination to set the mood for sleep. But his animals are rather fuzzily rendered, putting a curtain between the readers and the scene, and keeping them from truly getting into the same somnolent state as the red-pajama-clad baby who sleeps among the creatures in each spread. This has some appeal for group readings, but doesn't come close to equaling Mem Fox's Time for Bed. (1993) (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
THIS IS THE STABLE by Cynthia Cotten
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

With a gentle, perfectly rhyming text, this cumulative tale presents the Nativity story in a beautifully illustrated version just right for younger children. The patterned text introduces each component of the Nativity scene, always returning to the soothing refrain of "the quiet stable, dusty and brown." The poetic words have the rhythmic, repetitive cadences of a Christmas carol, and in fact, the text can be sung to the traditional English carol, "The Friendly Beasts." Bettoli's mixed-media paintings feature swirling lines, bright flowers and patterned borders. Mary and Joseph clearly come from the Middle East, and the Three Wise Men are of three different ethnicities. Her interpretation includes many birds and the subtle images of feathered wings, with the final spread presenting the angel host gathered over Bethlehem and the edge of the midnight-blue sky flowing off the page like a great bird. Children will be drawn to the appealing cover showing the dusty, brown stable with Mary and Joseph approaching. Against a background of flying birds and feathery wings, the title stands out in huge, shiny red letters, inviting readers inside. (Picture book. 2-8)Read full book review >
ABBIE IN STITCHES by Cynthia Cotten
Released: Sept. 12, 2006

In the early 19th century in upstate New York, young Abbie despairs of ever making stitches as fine and even as her older sister Sarah's. She would much rather be reading. Every Wednesday, Abbie goes with Sarah to Mrs. Brown, who has been teaching the girls needlework for several years. Abbie is now old enough to plan her first sampler: the alphabet, her numbers, a border. She works on it through the autumn and winter, always wishing she were reading instead. In the spring, she struggles to choose the picture and the saying that will be on her sampler. When she decides on something very important to her, her teacher and parents are at first surprised but then pleased. Her parents give her not only a needlework box like Sarah's with her own thimble, scissors and needles, but a book of her very own. The illustrations have freely drawn impressionistic backgrounds and nicely detailed facial expressions and needlework bits. (sources, afterword) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS by Cynthia Cotten
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Cartwright's (Going Home, not reviewed, etc.) mossy greens, golden yellows, and smoky blues evoke a late summer in the woods as numbered sets of forest animals go about their business. A simple pattern emerges as Cotten (Snow Ponies, 2001) follows a three-line rhyme with a refrain counting up to ten: "At the edge of the woods, the treetops sway. / The sunrise brings a brand-new day. / Two spotted fawns come out to play / at the edge of the deep, dark woods." The rhyming provides a comforting rhythm to the counting, but there are no surprises here. The refrain "at the edge of the deep, dark woods" grows stale and the animals play predictable roles. A "big burly" bear breaks things up a bit as it lumbers onto the last spread causing all the other animals to hide, but ultimately lizards lounge, sparrows perch, and ants march along just as they're expected to. On the left side of several spreads, some of the animals are pictured as spot art against a white background. The rest of the creatures on the right side are pictured in a forest scene. The technique lends variety, but makes it more challenging to add up the numbers. Cartwright's lush and boldly crafted images seem to demand a more complex story, while the sing-songy rhyming and the traditional animal characters would fit more comfortably in a younger board format. Still, the peaceful forest crew and comforting color palette make this a soothing read, if not a great counting tool. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
SNOW PONIES by Cynthia Cotten
Released: Nov. 1, 2001

On a dreary, gray day, Old Man Winter goes out to his barn and releases his snow ponies to gallop across the cold, hard ground, bringing winter to everything they touch. As the magical ponies race each other across the fields, they nip and buck with playful energy. The other forest creatures leap out of their way. The fox snuggles into his warm den; a little squirrel huddles in the crook of a tree; the songbirds hide in the foliage of the holly bush. With each silent step, the snow ponies stir the whirling snowflakes and with each breath, the flakes dance through the air. As they tire, they slowly begin to walk toward the barn where Old Man Winter greets them and tucks them back into their stalls. He exits the barn and smiles at the white wonderland that his magic has created. Paintings full of quick brushstrokes of color layered on a softly muted landscape make this a beautiful as well as a magical read. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >