Books by Cynthia Rylant

MOTOR MOUSE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 23, 2019

"In the words of Motor Mouse himself, 'QUITE ACCEPTABLE'—actually, more than quite. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Pie, cake, ice cream, popcorn, and bowling only hint at the pleasures to be found in three effervescent little stories. Read full book review >
ECCLESIASTES by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 18, 2018

"A lovely, quiet interpretation of some of the most famous verses from the Old Testament, one that will last through many seasons. (Picture book/religion. 2-7)"
Newbery Medalist Rylant continues her series of simplified Bible verse interpretations with this illustrated version of the familiar "to everything there is a season" text, adapted from the King James version of the book of Ecclesiastes. Read full book review >
ROSETOWN by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 8, 2018

"A sweet story for children dealing with change. (Historical fiction. 8-12)"
Nine-year-old Flora experiences the loss of a pet, the separation of her parents, and the start of fourth grade, but a year of good changes is in store for her. Read full book review >
HENNY, PENNY, LENNY, DENNY, AND MIKE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 26, 2017

"Budding aquaculturists will enjoy this tale of friendship from a fish-eye view. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Aquarium life is anything but boring…it's "FAB!" Read full book review >
NATIVITY by Cynthia Rylant
adapted by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

"This gentle interpretation of the birth of Jesus connected to some of his most important words has its own calm, quiet strength. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)"
Newbery Medalist Rylant offers a succinct, graceful account of the birth of Jesus and some of his most famous words as an adult preaching to others. Read full book review >
LIFE by Cynthia Rylant
Released: June 27, 2017

"A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages. (Picture book. 4-adult)"
Readers are invited to reflect on life with the help of animals. Read full book review >
SLEEPING BEAUTY by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 6, 2017

"This adequate but unnecessary new version could be left sleeping on the shelf. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)"
This version of the oft-told story opens with a fusty philosophical frontispiece: "Many see Time as a friend, and many see Time as a foe. But for a sleeping beauty, Time was a promise." Read full book review >
WE LOVE YOU, ROSIE! by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 28, 2017

"A cozy, Rosie read. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Two black children, who could be seen as fraternal twins, lavish love on their dachshund, Rosie. Read full book review >
LITTLE PENGUINS by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 25, 2016

"A very warm and satisfying bedtime book and a paean to penguins and winter delights. (Picture book. 1-5)"
"Winter is here." Read full book review >
CREATION by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 20, 2016

"Child-friendliness substitutes for awe in this cozy rendition. (Picture book/religion. 3-7)"
The Creation story, interpreted with minimalist art. Read full book review >
MR. PUTTY & TABBY HIT THE SLOPE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

"Simple words can still surprise with adventure and humor. Cowabunga! (Early reader. 6-9)"
Who would have thought that a balding white homebody and his orange cat could become beloved stars of a long-running series for first- and second-graders? Read full book review >
GOOSEBERRY PARK AND THE MASTER PLAN by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 21, 2015

"Readers new to Gooseberry Park will hope they don't have to wait another 20 years for the next book. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
Twenty years after the publication of Gooseberry Park (1995), Rylant returns with a sequel. Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER & TABBY TURN THE PAGE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 4, 2014

"A sweet and nicely different take on the pleasure of reading. (Early reader. 6-8)"
The tried-and-true beginning reader series explores the joys of shared reading. Read full book review >
GOD GOT A DOG by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 29, 2013

"Funny, devout and oh, so human; this collection hits home. (Poetry. 10 & up)"
Several of the poems from Rylant's wry meditation God Went to Beauty School (2003) are regathered, rearranged and luminously illustrated by Frazee. Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER & TABBY DROP THE BALL by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 17, 2013

"A home run. (Early reader. 4-8)"
Batter up, Mr. Putter and Tabby! Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER & TABBY RING THE BELL by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 12, 2011

"These four neighbors are great company, and their portrayal of aging is sweetly refreshing. (Early reader. 6-9)"
Show-and-Tell will never be the same after Mr. Putter and Tabby and Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke are through. Read full book review >
BROWNIE & PEARL GRAB A BITE by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 23, 2011

"A satisfying addition to a consistently strong series. Bon appetit. (Picture book/early reader 3-6)"
In this latest installment of Rylant and Biggs' picture-book series, Brownie and Pearl do lunch and invite readers to join in the fun. Read full book review >
BROWNIE & PEARL GET DOLLED UP by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: May 4, 2010

The second Brownie and Pearl outing (Brownie & Pearl Step Out, 2010) solidifies Brownie as a true girly-girl when she squeezes in a bit of dress-up fun before bedtime. Although she's already wearing her purple pajamas, she and her cat Pearl raid a dresser for a pink feather boa, pearls, face powder, lipstick ("For Brownie," reads the text—it'd be tough for a cat to pucker up) and perfume. Hair brushed, and shod in unmentioned, though obvious, grown-up-sized purple heels, Brownie and Pearl show themselves off to the adults, presumably Brownie's more conservatively clad parents. Artwork reveals only the bottom half of the adults' bodies on the verso page, firmly situating the attention on the little girl and her pet, who look mighty pleased with themselves as the parents announce, "You are so dolled up!" By book's end, they are cozied up in bed with the boa still around them and glitter dotting their faces. Biggs's digitally produced art matches the sweet sense of fun captured by Rylant's text, together creating a lovely, girly bedtime story. (Picture book/early reader. 3-6)Read full book review >
BROWNIE & PEARL STEP OUT by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 5, 2010

The first in a planned eight-book series, Rylant and Biggs's collaboration heralds a feline-human connection worthy of comparison to Mr. Putter and Tabby. It's a good thing that cats are invited to the birthday party when Brownie and her pet Pearl step out, because Brownie is too shy to knock when she arrives at the door. Then Pearl slips through the kitty door, encouraging Brownie to muster up the courage to go inside. A warm welcome, party games, cake, ice cream and "more ice cream" (the second helping claiming its own page opening with a messy-faced, rather queasy-looking Brownie) await her. Digitally produced cartoon-like artwork at times attends to background details and at other times effectively focuses solely on characters to highlight emotions and actions. While this picture book could work well as a read-aloud, its controlled text and uncluttered artwork also opens it up to beginning-reader-book status. Readers of all sorts will look forward to the next time Pearl and Brownie step out together. (Picture book/early reader. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE BEAUTIFUL STORIES OF LIFE by Cynthia Rylant
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: May 1, 2009

With elegant simplicity, Rylant retells the stories of Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche, six popular Greek myths involving powerful and poignant emotions. Pandora's curiosity unleashes suffering on the world, but she salvages hope. When Hades abducts her daughter Persephone, Demeter's grief causes the seasons to change. Orpheus's inability to accept his bride's untimely death leads to his own demise. Pygmalion's passion for the beautiful woman he carves from marble brings her to life. Narcissus's fixation on his own perfect image destroys him as well as the adoring Echo. Psyche's selfless devotion to Eros survives Aphrodite's jealous testing. The choices are appropriate for kids, who often fail to grasp complex mythical themes. Rylant's clear explanations of relationships between gods and mortals as well as the underlying motivations and significance of each myth avoid condescension without sacrificing the details, richness and conventions of the original stories. Ellis's formal black-and-white drawings are reminiscent of stylized classical Greek art and illustrate a dramatic moment from each myth. The small, square format completes this accessible and classy introduction to Greek mythology. (Mythology. 10 & up)Read full book review >
ALL IN A DAY by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2009

A boy spends a day on his family farm, sharing joys and disappointments with his parents, a friendly chicken and a watchful squirrel. Rylant uses gentle verse to describe the gifts of a new day and consistent rhyme to conjure the reassuring cycles of nature. McClure's bold cut-paper illustrations make such nebulous concepts as hope and renewal accessible to young readers. Her touching black-and-white tableaux, satisfying and solid with thick lines and sharp reliefs, offer simple scenes of rejuvenation: a rain shower, a burgeoning seedling, a chicken's perfect egg. When the egg breaks, leaving the boy heartbroken, even the tiniest child will understand his tearful desire to undo what's been done, to start again. Alternating backdrops of color, finch-yellow and a soft, muted blue, allow for a whole new outlook with every page turn. This uplifting picture book succeeds in introducing children to the perennial promise of tomorrow through lithe language and honed imagery. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SNOW by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

"The best snow is the snow that comes softly in the night, like a shy friend afraid to knock …." A little disingenuously, as she seems to love all types, from fat, heavy flakes to the light falls that "make you notice the delicate limbs of trees," Rylant begins her celebration of snow. An acknowledged master of "spare" and "poetic," the Newbery Medalist delivers, her words drifting and blowing and coming 'round to the children who "love the snow better than anyone else does" in the end. Stringer's illustrations are distinguished by lush, pillowy lines, the white edged with blues and pinks, and center the narrative on a child and her grandmother in sync with the snow. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
HANSEL AND GRETEL by Cynthia Rylant
adapted by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jen Corace
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 16, 2008

Observing that the classic tale features resourceful children saving themselves from evil rather than relying on "guardian spirits" or other outside help, Rylant delivers a straight, simply phrased retelling that Corace illustrates with clean-lined woodland scenes featuring figures in, largely, modern-looking country dress. Because the characters stand and gesture like dancers, and bear abstracted (or, in the cases of the stepmother and the witch, mildly annoyed) expressions, there is a theatrical quality to the large pictures that will help more sensitive children keep the story's betrayals and dangers at arm's length. So, too, does the text: The father, readers learn, "agreed to do what his selfish wife told him to do, for he had no fight left in him." There are zillions of versions available, but the language and the visual harmony of this one makes it particularly suitable for sharing with younger audiences. (Picture book/folktale. 4-6) Read full book review >
BABY FACE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 4, 2008

Six babies populate these six poems, paeans to the momentous events of baby life: first steps, a bath, going out in the carriage, getting teeth, going to bed. Asking, "what shall you chew?" for "Baby Teeth" the narrator notes fondly, "How about some building blocks? / I think you love those most." The verses fall gently upon the ear, and Goode's watercolor, pencil and gouache pictures—squiggly babies and softly hued mamas, dads, grandparents—gambol on white backgrounds. Dogs, cats, toys and favorite blankets also figure prominently. These are definitely baby-rocking rhymes for parents, babysitters or older siblings to read aloud to the giggling bundle of joy in their charge. A few have the potential of memorization with a chance of becoming a familiar family favorite. (Picture book. 0-3)Read full book review >
PUPPIES AND PIGGIES by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2008

A bevy of farm creatures enjoy a few of their favorite things in this barnyard charmer. Puppy loves playing in the rain and pressing his nose against the windowpane while Kitty loves a rose and walking on her toes. Bunny loves snacking on peas and hiding in apple trees. Piggy loves his slop and rolling around to flop. All Chicky needs are her seeds. Mousey loves to hide inside a dark hole. Goosey loves walking and talking. Pony loves running in the summer sun. And Baby loves bed and Mama who kisses him on his sleepy head. Told in reassuring rhyme, the simple upbeat text showcases happy animals doing what comes naturally while Bates's idyllic watercolor and crayon illustrations present a bucolic barnyard teeming with contented critters. Puppy plays in a puddle; Kitty struts on a wall; Bunny munches pea pods; Piggy rolls in the straw; Chicky pecks; Mousey wiggles; Goosey honks; Pony stretches; and Baby sleeps safely. Comforting and carefree fare for tiny tots. (Picture book. 3-5) Read full book review >
WALT DISNEY’S CINDERELLA by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

In this "bibbity-bobbity-boo"-less rendition of the classic film's plot, Rylant focuses on larger themes—"Every day Cinderella wished for Love"—rather than characters, crafting a lyrical romance free of sympathetic small animals, songs, much dialogue or even (with the titular exception) names. This interpretation suits the art to a tee. Blair was the original concept designer for the movie (and for many other Disney cartoons), and her color sketches, reproduced here as full-page scenes, have less to do with the small, generic figures in each scene than the flow of line and drapery, the lighting and general look of the costumes, the palace and other sets. The visual connection between these rough pictures and the finished film is tenuous at best, and though unusually perceptive children might be able to make it, this is really more of a spin-off than a tie-in. Its main audience will likely be drawn either by nostalgia, curiosity about the animated filmmaking process, or the enduring appeal of the tale itself. (Fairy tale. 7-11)Read full book review >
ALLIGATOR BOY by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2007

In rhyming couplets, Rylant expertly unfolds a quirky tale about a boy who is "tired of being a boy" and "hope[s] to be somebody new." He gets his wish when a package with an alligator suit arrives on his doorstep. Rylant's elegant writing and understated humor are matched perfectly by Goode's watercolor illustrations. Goode's generous use of white space focuses our attention on the characters that she imbues with copious charm and personality. The witty language and engaging, dynamic pictures, as well as the warmly nostalgic atmosphere, will attract parents and children alike. What's more, its whimsy and fancy extend to the final page: The alligator boy does not have a change of heart and decide to turn back into a boy. Neither is the story revealed to have taken place in his imagination or his dreams. Instead, Rylant and Goode close the story with a picture of their main character asleep on his mother's lap, his alligator tail hanging down from the chair, and the reassuring message that his is "a good green life for an alligator boy." (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
LUDIE’S LIFE by Cynthia Rylant
POETRY
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

Readers familiar with Rylant's work from their childhoods will feel comfortably familiar with the setting of this narrative. Some will recognize the "relatives" or the mountains or cups of coffee at the kitchen table and other autobiographical tidbits that have appeared in the body of the author's work. Like so many others, this shares a spellbinding voice of the storyteller whose simple language and quiet voice manage to unfold a story resonant and meaningful on multiple levels. A novel-in-verse, this traces Ludie's life from her birth in Alabama in 1910, until she dies at age 95 in West Virginia. She marries Rupe when he's 15, because he's "tall and kind." Rupe secures work as coal miner in West Virginia and they move to start their lives together. She doesn't tell her story chronologically, and there is no plot to speak of. It's a near elegy celebrating a special character, a woman who practiced what she preached, and the special, if not basic, life she led. The narrative is often a collection of Zen-like moments of self-discovery and serenity. Of course, Rylant can't resist an occasional thinly disguised critique of contemporary American culture, where so many are lonely and disconnected from family. Ludie might not have had much money, but she was never lonely. A powerful read for young and old alike. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
THE JOURNEY by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

In something of a departure for a writer known better for her poetry and fiction, Rylant presents readers with a lovely sequence of musings on migration. Locusts, American silver eels and caribou join monarch butterflies, Arctic terns and gray whales—"so different from each other but so alike in one profound way: Each must move." Her sense of wonder never far from the fore, the author describes each animal and its astonishing journey, the text characteristically poetic yet eminently readable for those recent graduates from Henry and Mudge: "[T]hese grasshoppers will begin changing. . . . And when they rise up to fly together by the billions, they will be grasshoppers no more. They will be locusts." Davis's highly saturated paintings emphasize the majestic, and if they're a touch too ponderous to be a perfect complement to the light lyricism of the text, they are nevertheless undeniably beautiful. In its breadth, it's a terrific introduction to the whole concept of migration. As such, however, it's a pity that there are no references to any further reading for children who want to find out more. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
THE STARS WILL STILL SHINE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

A rhymed, reassuring text with beautiful illustrations makes a presentation worth considering for the holidays or any time. "This new year" it begins, with a litany of things that will happen: "cows will have calves / kittens will sleep / flowers will bloom / (a promise they keep)." There will be peaches, ice cream, light in dark places, church bells. The short and simple prose runs in a single line along the bottom of radiant, light-infused illustrations. These move from countryside to cityscape, indoors and out, with a cast of families of many ethnicities (and a fair number of pets). In the spread that reads, "and in this new year / love will be strong," a mom pushes her daughter on a swing hanging from a lovely old tree while their dog sits beneath. The flowers mentioned bloom in a city rooftop garden of pots, and "there will be goodness / there will be grace" underlines a family dinner with a checkered tablecloth and fruit for dessert. Small but strong. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
BORIS by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2005

With characteristic sensitivity, Rylant addresses one of her cats in a set of conversational free-verse poems—recalling the day she brought him and his sister home from the humane shelter, warning him about predatory eagles, congratulating him on bonding rather than battling with a new neighbor's cat and on surviving a solitary jaunt into the surrounding woods. She uses these and other incidents to reflect on parallels in her own life: "we are like you, Boris. / We are outside cats / and proud of it / until the first big drop / of rain hits out noses. . . . " Though subtler and more understated than Dave Crawley's Cat Poems, (see above) neither the language nor the insights here should present challenges for readers, even younger or less practiced ones. (Poetry. 8-10)Read full book review >
THE TURTLE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2005

In this fourth visit to a close, multi-species family of lighthouse tenders, a distressed sea turtle washes up on the rocky shore. Having swum so far from her accustomed South to see the glorious lights for which she's named, Aurora desperately needs warmth and help to get home—both of which, along with plenty of TLC, the clever cat Pandora, the old canine salt Seabold, and the trio of orphaned mice Whistler, Lila and Tiny are happy to offer. Muffled (except for Aurora) in baggy human clothing, the figures in McDaniels's elaborate, accomplished graphite drawings exude personality, adding animation to Rylant's measured but understated writing. Amid a chorus of goodbyes and well-dones, Aurora departs homeward at last, in a rope sling beneath a flock of migrating pelicans—a final image that will stay with the young audiences and recent easy-reader graduates drawn to these tales of castaways from diverse backgrounds making a home together. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
LONG NIGHT MOON by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2004

Rylant takes the evocative trope of the First Peoples' naming of the full moons of the year and turns it into a quiet meditation on time and nature. Siegel is just in tune with her words, his charcoal, pencil and pastel drawings fill the pages with shadows, each lit by a brilliant full moon. He pans around a rural setting: a gazebo with a mother and child, a house with a single bright window, huge old trees, fields, fence, road. Month by month, readers see moonlight picking out a particular thing: skunks' white stripes or the tips of new grasses. These lovely images echo Rylant's gentle prose: "In April / the Sprouting Grass Moon brings / all wanderers back home. / Baby birds love this moon. / It lights their tiny heads." In each spread, while Siegel evokes landscape and fauna in deep blues, grays, black and brown, the moon looms with an unearthly glow. The Long Night Moon is December's: "The faithful moon. / This one is your friend," whispers the mother into the hair of her babe, as they stand in the gazebo wrapped in woolies and stars once again. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
IF YOU’LL BE MY VALENTINE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2004

"If you'll be my valentine / I'll kiss you on the nose / I'll scratch your ears / and rub your head / and pet your little toes," writes a young boy to his kitten. Each double-page spread presents the rhyming text of a Valentine's Day card above a picture of the card that he's created. There is one for all of the special someones in his life. He also writes to his dog, grandmother, siblings, teddy, parents, and a bird outside his window. The Valentine's wishes end as he's tucked into bed with a kiss on the cheek. Rylant's sweet, simple rhymes capture the likely sentiments of a toddler without resorting to syrup or sentimentality. Kosaka's serene, silly, smiling cartoon toddler, captured mostly in close-up with the object of his Valentine, is rendered in bright chalk pastel. The text and illustrations are a fine match, making this an excellent addition to holiday collection. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
MOONLIGHT by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

Moonlight's a night-loving, night-prowling cat, but Halloween night's her special favorite. She revels in the smiling pumpkins, "straw laps" of neighborhood scarecrows, and costumed children that make Halloween so unique. A carelessly dropped piece of candy doesn't hurt either, and under Halloween moonlight, Moonlight the cat joyously laps it up. Yet another, though not especially memorable, addition to the Halloween canon, Rylant's very simple text makes a good holiday read-aloud for the very young. Sweet's illustrations, mostly double-paged in acrylic and colored-pencil are rich and bold and have loads of child appeal. Surely some will take this as an example of looking differently at the deep darkness of night and all its splendors. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
GOD WENT TO BEAUTY SCHOOL by Cynthia Rylant
FICTION
Released: June 1, 2003

Rylant takes two tropes—God as one of us and God's presence in everything—and turns them into wry and radiant poetry. God goes to beauty school "because He'd always loved hands— / hands were some of the best things / He'd ever done." God buys a couch and makes spaghetti, goes to the doctor and gets arrested, and in each poem Rylant works out with passionate tenderness what that would mean, and how it might tickle the fancy, and that it would tug at our humanity. When God gets a cold, He wants someone to bring Him comic books and juice (Mother Teresa does). When He sees the whole world from the top of Mount Everest and it breaks his heart, "Nobody'd want to hit / the guy next to him / on top of Mount Everest. / ‘Next time,' thought God. / ‘Next time.' " A wildly imagined concept; Rylant fans as well as thoughtful young readers will be beguiled. (Poetry. 10 )Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2003

Once again, Rylant and Karas (The Case of the Sleepy Sloth, 2002, etc.) demonstrate why they are a cut above the rest when it comes to beginning readers: their verbal and visual sophistication is ever so easy and pleasurable. In their sixth adventure, the high-rise private eyes, Bunny (a bunny) and Jack (a raccoon), are on the track of an errant pair of fuzzy dice—lucky fuzzy dice that the bus driver must have hanging from his mirror or he won't operate the bus. Of course, things are never so simple with these two, who start the proceedings by excising the calm Bunny is enjoying after a yoga session. Which also helps establish a running joke—the importance of potato chips in maintaining one's emotional equilibrium—they will enjoy throughout the story, as well as introducing their cracked sense of humor. Rylant is not above some verbal tomfoolery—" ‘Oops, did I scare you?' Jack called. Bunny gave him a look. ‘I must have,' said Jack. ‘You're all white.' ‘Jack, I'm always all white,' said Bunny. ‘Oh, all white. Whatever you say,' said Jack"—and Karas is ready to ramp up the imagery, like the smile on Jack's face when he's trying to soothe a ruffled, and very large, bulldog. The perp turns out to have made the kind of mistake any kid might. He learns what he has to do to rectify the situation: "Just tell Melvin you're sorry, okay?" The kind of simple, respectful advice that builds character 12 different ways and entertainment while instructing that's elevated to a particularly high order. (Easy reader. 4-8)Read full book review >
CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Newbery Medalist Rylant and Goode collaborate again for the first time since their Caldecott Honor Book, When I Was Young in the Mountains (1982). This offering also explores the experiences of a little girl who leads an old-fashioned life in a cozy home with her grandparents (as did Rylant for several years of her childhood). In first-person narrative, the unnamed little girl and her grandparents prepare for a traditional but simple Christmas: putting up lights, decorating the tree, attending church, opening a few presents early Christmas morning, and welcoming guests for Christmas dinner. Goode's loose watercolor-and-ink illustrations help create a cheery, comfortable home in which the little girl is tenderly loved and cared for. The child knows that Christmas will unfold each year in just the same ways with the predictability of family tradition that all children love. The setting and time period are not specified: somewhere in a place with hills and lots of snow and tolerance for an integrated community, as the family attends an integrated church and includes African-American friends in their Christmas dinner plans. The time period could be anywhere from the 1930s to the '50s, but it's definitely a much calmer and simpler time when a quiet, meaningful Christmas was within everyone's reach. A serene and soothing look at the holiday, just right to share with a child while sipping cocoa and nibbling Christmas cookies. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER & TABBY CATCH THE COLD by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

There is a note of melancholy in this tale from Putterland, a place more typical of mirth and everyday adventures that have sprung a leak. Here, Mr. Putter is laid low by a cold—Howard decks him out with dark circles under his drooping lids and a palpable malaise—and "colds aren't so much fun when you're old," he says to his cat Tabby. You don't have to be over 40 to feel the sting of that sentiment. Nor does it help that, Tabby excepting, Mr. Putter lives alone. So as not to slip ever deeper into the existentialism of it all, Rylant sends Mr. Putter's neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, to the rescue. Well, she's not allowed over because Mr. Putter doesn't want her to get his cold, so she sends an emissary, her dog Zeke, who shuffles over with chicken soup and then hot tea in a thermos and finally, best of all, an adventure book. All these goodies remind Mr. Putter of those bygone days when he was a kid with a cold, when "he had almost liked colds. He always got spoiled." He gets spoiled again now, but not before that creeping ache has stolen over the story, testifying to the need for friendships, acts of mercy, and simple kindness. A powerful piece of Putter. (Easy reader. 6-9) Read full book review >
THE STORM by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

At her best, Rylant's (The Ticky-Tacky Doll, below, etc.) sweetness and sentiment fills the heart; in this outing, however, sentimentality reigns and the end result is pretty gooey. Pandora keeps a lighthouse: her destiny is to protect ships at sea. She's lonely, but loves her work. She rescues Seabold and heals his broken leg, and he stays on to mend his shipwrecked boat. This wouldn't be so bad but Pandora's a cat and Seabold a dog, although they are anthropomorphized to the max. Then the duo rescue three siblings—mice!—and make a family together, although Rylant is careful to note that Pandora and Seabold each have their own room. Choosing what you love, caring for others, making a family out of love, it is all very well, but this capsizes into silliness. Formatted to look like the start of a new series. Oh, dear. (Fiction. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE CASE OF THE SLEEPY SLOTH by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

Jack and Bunny are back with a new case. Chums—Bunny is perhaps a tad on the bossy side, Jack perhaps shading into twerpdom—they have repaired to the dock to have their pizza. Bunny warns Jack not to feed the seagulls. "They'll just linger," Bunny says. But Jack can't help himself, and before long, the lingering seagulls eat the entire pizza. As Bunny gives Jack a hard look, they notice a dog, a "weird dog in yellow pants," mooching about on an adjacent dock. Curious, they approach the hound and learn he is Ramon, who dislikes earthquakes and has lost his lawn chair. Bunny and Jack unravel the case, which involves some meteorological sleuthing, and find the missing chair under the snoozing body of an old sloth, whose been sleeping in it since it blew in last Monday. Rylant has lots of fun with wordplay—" ‘And what about that name?' said Jack. ‘What name?' asked Bunny. ‘Ruth,' said Jack. ‘Ruth Sloth. It makes your tongue funny.' " Best is the verbal to-and-froing as these two banter and debate the scene, solving everything, including how to make a new reader laugh out loud. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
THE TICKY-TACKY DOLL by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

A graceful tale about coping with the pangs of separation. A hand-sewn doll is a girl's constant companion, lovingly carted to and from every activity. Yet when the time for school arrives, the girl makes the distressing discovery that her beloved friend must stay home. With humbly eloquent prose, Rylant (The Storm, above, etc.) describes the abiding bonds between a young child and her favored doll. "Well, the little girl might as well have been asked to leave her nose behind, or her two ears. . . . The ticky-tacky doll was much a part of her as eyes or ears or a nose, and the little girl did not know how else to be." When the girl fails to thrive at school, too distracted by her loss and longing, the adults in her life are baffled. All except for her grandmother, who, with consummate understanding about the pain of separation from loved ones, is able to ease the girl's heartache with a surprisingly simple solution. A teeny-tiny version of the doll tucked into her school bag enables the child to confidently attend school, secure in the knowledge that a little bit of love from home is with her. Stevenson's (Shadows, p. 189, etc.) acrylic and crayon illustrations resonate with the emotions of the tale. Rendered in a muted palette of gentle colors, the heavily textured illustrations are an elegant extension of Rylant's deeply moving story. A treasure to share with young ones who are approaching this momentous milestone. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
LET'S GO HOME by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2002

The warmth and reassurance of home are put in very concrete terms in this pleasing offering from the creators of the Cobble Stone Cousins series. From the front porch, which is loveliest at Christmas, to the living room, where "that is exactly what people do," to the kitchen "that reminds people to look after each other," this is a paean to the comforts of home. The bathroom, from its dinosaur sponge to its scented emollients, and the attic full of stuff, are not neglected, either. Rylant is up to her usual offhand lyricism, although she uses the old-fashioned (and off-putting) "he" as a generic: "Ask anyone to name his favorite place in a house and he will almost always say the kitchen." Halperin's detailed illustrations are full of things sure to be in someone's house somewhere: the sea-green refrigerator, the sugar bowl with the loons painted on it, a beautiful multicolored teapot. This is a house full of pets and children; stuffed animals are everywhere, a collection of marionettes hangs from the walls, and there are mobiles and toys and lovingly delineated furniture. What there isn't, interestingly enough, is any indication of television, telephones, stereo systems, or computers. Could be very cozy indeed for reading aloud and poring over. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
LITTLE WHISTLE’S DINNER PARTY by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Rylant seems poised to reel off another long series of warm, fuzzy episodes for new and pre-readers. Here the guinea pig introduced in Little Whistle (not reviewed) invites his toy friends (who come to life when the elegant toyshop they share closes for the night) to dinner, then gathers up a toy oven, toy place settings, a tiny kettle, and some hoarded goodies. The animate toys have simple character traits to distinguish them, and with Little Whistle doing all the cooking and a wooden soldier reading stories to all the shop's children each night, there's some gentle massaging of gender roles as well. Bowers, illustrator of the inaugural title, depicts figures with photorealistic precision, and keeps such a close point of view that Little Whistle—almost lost in an oversized pea coat—and his friends, whose fuzzy or polished surfaces seem almost touchable, generally fill each frame. Little Whistle disappears as the feast is about to begin, to make a grand re-entrance with a box of vanilla cookies fetched by toy helicopter from the local all-night grocery. Soothing, intimately small-scale, and just the ticket for a cozy bedtime read. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
POPPLETON IN WINTER by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

This wintry triptych of Poppleton tales is all readers have come to expect from Rylant's (Little Whistle's Dinner Party, above, etc.) worthy pig: dry humor, natty friendships, and doings that kids can relate to. In the first story, Poppleton's impressive display of icicles on his house, of which he is justly proud (though neighbors and family counsel him to remove them), is knocked to the ground by a wayward finch. The finch, Patrick by name, apologizes, then, seeing that Poppleton is a bit distraught, suggests Poppleton do something with them. They build a picket fence, and camaraderie. Next, since "winter always made Poppleton creative," he decides to make a bust of Cherry Sue's head. As he toils away, he must make frequent trips to Cherry Sue's house to take a good look at her hair—and her eyes and her nose. Finally Cherry Sue has had enough and she tweaks Poppleton's snout. Taken aback, he explains his harassment and Cherry Sue comes for a sitting. She even gives his nose a peck. Lastly, he's disappointed when all his pals can't go for a sleigh ride. Compounding the misery, they are all busy making delicious foods that he wishes he were eating. Then surprise, they descend upon Poppleton to celebrate his birthday (he'd forgotten). They even get to go for a midnight sleigh ride. All's well in Poppleton's world, a place in which kids will be happy to tarry (and so encourage beginning readers). Teague's (Horus's Horrible Day, p. 862, etc.) jovial, scrubbed artwork has Poppleton written all over it, especially when capturing Cherry Sue at her most indignant. (Easy reader. 3-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

In a perfectly delicious outing, Dyer's (Sophie's Masterpiece, p. 422, etc.) sunny, openhearted watercolors, drenched in color and cheer, match the tender, in-the-moment rhymes and rhythms of Rylant's (Little Whistle's Dinner Party, p. 1300, etc.) verse. The poems follow a small child's day: breakfast, the sandbox, a ride in the car, a bath, bedtime. Each poem is illustrated by Dyer's expressive paintings; the children are a multiethnic band of toddlers and photographs of the kids used as models for each poem are included at the end. "Baby Loves a Rainy Day" touts the praises of staying in to play with blocks, a book, and music; "Going in the Car" has a girl and her papa in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, running errands and waving to everyone they see. In "Sweetie's Messes," the bouncy rhyme states, "Suppertime with baby girl / Leaves Papa looking funny. / He's got some squash in his left ear / And one shoe's full of honey!" Irresistible. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE GREAT GRACIE CHASE by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2001

Gracie Rose, a charming brown-and-white puppy, loves a quiet house. She loves the kitty sleeping quietly on the windowsill. She sings to the fish when it's lonely. She helps the bigger dog watch the house. For Gracie, the best home is a quiet one. But one day, the painters who come to paint her kitchen destroy the quiet. Not only are they noisy, but they put her out of the house when she barks at them. Gracie, who has always been a good dog, runs through an open gate and takes off. The whole town runs after her, gathering much as do the folks in "The Gingerbread Boy." Only when everyone, including the painters, drops from exhaustion can Gracie return to her home and find peace and quiet. Unfortunately for Gracie Rose, the reader knows that the dreaded painters will come again. Rylant's story seems deceptively simple, but its prose is beautifully phrased, conversational in tone, and easy to read. Teague outdoes himself here; his oversized drawings are equal partners to Rylant's words. They create narrative, movement, and fun on every page; Gracie often seems ready to leap from the page, as she becomes bigger than life. The small town is an idealized place where a multiethnic community comes together good-humoredly to protect a fellow creature. Humans and animals express a variety of emotions, but Gracie's face and body language as the painter puts her outside take the cake. The strong storyline in text and illustration makes this a fine read-aloud. Gracie Rose deserves a series! (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER & TABBY FEED THE FISH by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2001

This is one of the very best of Rylant's Putter-Tabby dyad, as always affectionately depicted by the master of droll illustration. Mr. Putter decides to buy some fish to have at home. They remind him of his childhood. Tabby likes fish too. They "made her whiskers tingle and her tail twitch." And how: "Mr. Putter and Tabby drove their fish home. Tabby nearly twitched herself out of the car." Once they are home and the fish safely in their bowl, Tabby's whiskers chill and her tail quietens, but her paw swings into action. "Bat. Bat. Bat. Bat." It goes against the glass bowl. She can't control herself. By the time evening rolls around, Tabby is so frazzled it looks like she will have to enter a treatment program. So Mr. Putter drapes a pillowcase over the fishbowl. In the morning Tabby is found under the pillowcase and hard at batting the bowl. Mr. Putter is reduced to putting a metal pail over the bowl. A few days of that sad arrangement and they decide to give the fish to their neighbor Mrs. Teaberry. Like great farce, Rylant has chosen every word impeccably and Howard has drawn Tabby to a T, tingling whiskers, wayward paw, and all. Readers young and old will laugh themselves silly. (Easy reader. 4-9)Read full book review >
LITTLE WHISTLE’S MEDICINE by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2001

Little Whistle saves storytime in this third Toytown adventure. The latest installment finds the titular guinea pig (who lives in a store where the toys come alive at night) stepping out after hours to hear "Soldier" read a bedtime story to the Toytown babies. But when he finds Soldier in no shape for sharing ("Someone bumped me off my shelf today and I landed on my head"), Little Whistle sets out to find a cure. Unfortunately, his friends aren't much help. All Bear has to offer is a beret; Violet, the china doll, suggests a lullaby; Lion has only a vanilla cookie; and Rabbit won't even stop to listen. Just when Little Whistle is about to give up, a mother doll directs him to "shelves full of doctor and nurse kits." With Little Whistle to the rescue, Soldier is soon on the mend, and Little Whistle and the babies settle in for the story. Realistic oils wrap readers in a comforting glow, especially in the end: lulled to sleep, the bald, bonneted babies and Little Whistle snuggle on Soldier's lap. Easy to swallow and guaranteed to make you feel good, this is a soothing blend of words and images. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 28, 2001

Bunny Brown and Jack Jones, ace detectives, join forces again to solve their third easy-reader mystery in this snappy new series from Newbery Medalist Rylant, author of the beloved Henry and Mudge books. Bunny the bunny is the practical brains of the detective duo, and Jack the raccoon is her humorous sidekick, who is even funnier in this book than in the previous volumes, The Case of the Missing Monkey (not reviewed) and The Case of the Climbing Cat (2000). In this case, Bunny and Jack solve the chronic disappearance (and reappearance) of a trombone from a neighborhood music store. The puzzling possum of the title, Freddy, has been repeatedly "borrowing" the trombone so he can play at hayride entertainments with Gus's Big Brass Boys. Bunny and Jack nab him red-handed, and Bunny offers the practical solution of paying for the trombone by giving lessons at the music store. The combination easy-reader, easy-mystery follows the established format of a few clues, a mild neighborhood mystery, and lots of clever puns and jokes that will delight the intended audience. The humor is exactly on track for the early elementary grades, including a squashed marshmallow on Jack's seat and a quick rush to the bathroom following some dizzying explanations by the music-store owner (just the sort of jokes first graders adore). Karas's engaging illustrations in acrylic, gouache, and pencil help create unique personalities for Bunny and Jack. It's no mystery why this series is successful, and this endearing duo seems destined to crack many more cases of minor mischief in their urban neighborhood. (Easy reader. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE WONDERFUL HAPPENED by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

In free verse, Rylant marvels at commonplace occurrences, from the hatching of a baby bird to the nightly emergence of luminescent stars. Her simple words are imbued with a sense of reverence for life in its many manifestations. The mundane mingles with the miraculous as she ponders the mechanical precision of clocks with the same sense of wonder as the beauty of an unfurling, crimson-hued rose. "There is ivy, / there are worms, / there are clocks that keep time. / there's a moon lighting up a night sky. / and most of all and best of all, / it all never ends, / for the wonderful happens / and happens again." Rylant's enumeration of wonderful things culminates with the acknowledgement of the reader's existence. However, do not look for a lesson in reproduction here. Rylant likens the creation of children to a happening such as rain or snow; weaving it into fabric of life on earth. Former Hallmark art director Dowley's cozy, folk-style illustrations are a perfect foil for Rylant's prose. Lushly colored illustrations are surrounded by detailed borders in a country motif while the full-page, full-bleed paintings in the second half depict a merry group of multicultural children enjoying the splendor of the seasons. This gracious tale gently encourages children to savor the wonders of all life surrounding them and to rejoice in that most precious gift of life: themselves. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
IN NOVEMBER by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

A gentle hymn to an autumn month. Starting with the landscape and moving on to animals, then people, Rylant's voice describes the scene in immediate terms: leafless trees "lovely . . . spreading their arms like dancers"; birds that fly away and those that stay know "all berries will be treasures." Cats sleep in barn corners and dogs before the fire. In November, an "orange smell" of squash and pumpkin and cinnamon fills the house: people come to share and to give thanks "at winter's gate." The brief, evocative text sits on full-page, oil-on-paper paintings. Broad, thick brushstrokes capture the sturdy horses, the little mice, and the country landscape from gray to brown to snowy white. The multigenerational family is clearly delighted to be together. A quiet, pre-holiday gift. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
POPPLETON HAS FUN by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Here is Poppleton at his brief, mellow, sentimental best, mooning over the pleasure of friends in the coziest of settings. Accompanied by artwork that presents Poppleton as a lovable porker with a hint of the rascal in his body language, Rylant's (The High-Rise Private Eyes, p. 964, etc.) first story finds Poppleton going solo to the movies. At first this seems a nifty idea—no having to share the eats—but fast becomes an exercise in loneliness, as Poppleton has no one to share the laughs and shivers and tears with. It is always better to have a friend to join in the fun, he concludes. Next, Poppleton and three pals have a quilting bee, during which they entertain each other with stories about their respective pasts, and images from the stories get sewn into the quilt, as if by osmosis. Afterward, they take turns using the quilt: "Poppleton got it in summer. Fillmore got it in fall. Cherry Sue got it in winter. And Hudson got it in spring. Every season of the year, someone was sleeping under stories." Lastly, Poppleton runs out of bath emollients—nothing he liked better than a soak with lavender, lemon, and silky milk—so he visits Cherry Sue to see if he can borrow some. She only takes showers, but offers him some sweet smells from the kitchen: Blueberries? Vanilla? Cinnamon? No, says Poppleton, but lets go get something to eat. "Poppleton missed his soak that day. But it was okay. He was very happy smelling like a banana split." Poppleton is a darling, especially so in these stories, which can be favorably paired with tales in which he is a bit more of a rogue element. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 31, 2000

This versatile Newbery Medalist has crafted another winning series for young readers, this one for kids who are ready for books that are a little longer than the stories in her perennially popular Henry and Mudge series. The High-Rise Private Eyes are two big-city sophisticates, Bunny Brown, a stylish and brilliant female rabbit, and Jack Jones, a rather timid but inquisitive raccoon. The two are best friends who live in separate apartments in the same high-rise building, and together they specialize in solving minor crimes in their neighborhood. In this book, the second in the series, Bunny and Jack track down a bird-watching cat who has made off with monogrammed binoculars belonging to their neighbor Miss Nancy, a delightful goose who gives piano lessons on her grand piano and grows yellow roses on her balcony. The winsome animal creatures are brought to life with Karas's (The Seals on the Bus, p. 633, etc.) pastel illustrations done in acrylic, gouache, and pencil, in a style similar to that of Marc Brown. Teachers will like the format of this series, with clever integration of different types of writing: the words of the title on an index card, the contents page on a legal pad, lists of clues, and a letter from the detective duo on the inside back cover flap. Bunny and Jack solve their first case in The High-Rise Private Eyes: The Case of the Missing Monkey (not reviewed), with more cases in the works. The series will help fill the demand for easy mysteries that are accessible to young readers in the early grades and funny, too. (Easy reader. 6-8)Read full book review >
POPPLETON IN FALL by Cynthia Rylant
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

This latest in an early-reading series from Rylant, featuring the everyday adventures of Poppleton the pig, is as wry and supple as other entries, with the added charm of familiarity. In three stories, Poppleton's pal Cherry Sue serves as a safety net to the pig's minor misadventures. The first is a bit of nonsense involving geese flying south; Poppleton invites them in for cookies, but chatting and serving so many geese exhausts him so that he can only utter gibberish when he drops by Cherry Sue's, and succumbs to a nap. When Poppleton seeks a new winter coat, Zacko the ferret haberdasher insults the pig for his rotundity. Cherry Sue, reminding Poppleton that Zacko is a ferret, after all, with a radically different perspective on big and small, gives her friend a catalog for big and tall pigs. Lastly, Cherry Sue saves Poppleton's bacon at the Lion's Club pancake breakfast. If the prose invites a merry, humorous reading, Teague, hitting the illustrator's equivalent of a perfect stride, provides wonderful scenes that conduct beginning readers through the story. (Picture book. 2-7) Read full book review >
THE COOKIE-STORE CAT by Cynthia Rylant
Released: May 1, 1999

There is an ineffable sweetness in Rylant's work, which skirts the edge of sentimentality but rarely tumbles, saved by her simple artistry. This companion piece to The Bookshop Dog (1996) relates how the cookie-store cat was found, a tiny, skinny kitten, very early one day as the bakers came in to work. The cat gets morning kisses, when the bakers tell him that he is "sweeter than any cookie" and "prettier than marzipan." Then he makes his rounds, out the screen door painted with "cherry drops and gingerbread men" to visit the fish-shop owner, the yarn lady, and the bookshop, where Martha Jane makes a cameo appearance. Back at the cookie store, the cat listens to Father Eugene, who eats his three Scotch chewies and tells about the new baby in the parish, and sits with the children and their bags of cookies. At Christmas he wears a bell and a red ribbon, and all the children get free Santa cookies. The cheerful illustrations are done in paint as thick as frosting; the flattened shapes and figures are a bit cookie-shaped themselves. A few recipes are included in this yummy, comforting book. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
BUNNY BUNGALOW by Cynthia Rylant
Released: April 1, 1999

From Rylant (In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen, 1998, etc.), a gentle rhyming book for the very young. Mrs. and Mr. Bunny and their numerous offspring find a charming bungalow in a deep gully near a river and move right in. The bunnies set about making the house a home: painting it a pale green, planting a garden, and installing a carrot weathervane. Soon the interior is cozy too, as Mrs. Bunny knits bunny quilts, moves a comfortable rocker into the parlor, and invites bunnies to snuggle on a big couch while she reads poetry aloud. Mr. Bunny helps with bath time, takes the little bunnies fishing, and finds time to sit on the porch swing with his offspring, watching fireflies. The story ends as softly as it begins, in watercolors that are warm and full of childlike humor. Children will identify with the thumb-sucking middle bunny, the bed-bouncing bunny in striped pajamas, and the baby who tosses his bottle out of the crib for the father to pick up. A fetching bedtime book, as snug as they come. (Fiction. 4-6) Read full book review >
BLESS US ALL by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

Rylant pairs a series of indoor and outdoor scenes, each framed in a border of patchwork squares and painted with bright, opaque, broadly brushed colors, with a rhymed month-by-month catalog of blessings that will challenge even the hardiest sweet tooth, e.g., for June: "Bless the flowers,/bless the bees,/bless the birds/above the trees,/Bless the bunnies,/kitties too,/Bless each day,/all warm and blue." The pictures are more sanguine and less sentimental; not only are the naively drawn human and animal figures naturally and expressively posed, but the book's overall visual unity is maintained, despite a changing color scheme from spread to spread. Very young children will find soothing rhythms in both pictures and text, but this is more of an artistic achievement than a literary one. (Picture book. 1-5) Read full book review >
BEAR DAY by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

A comforting tale about a bear whose day is very similar to that of a child. He gets up, squeezes his teddy bear, and eats a small breakfast of grapes, cheese, and tea. After some wake-up scratching, face-washing, and teeth-brushing, he feeds his pets and sets off on a hike. A picnic and a long walk later, the bear turns around and heads home to his cozy bed. Selby's saltwater- taffy pastel illustrations add to the light, airy feeling of the tale, and details (sunflowers turn indigo in moonlight) create a reassuring sense of the passing of time. This is peaceful territory, intended for the very young. (Picture book. 1-3) 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 >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND ANNIE'S GOOD MOVE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Rylant and Stevenson's 18th book in the series is a tenderly humorous tale about a common event in family life. Henry, with a little help from Mudge, comes to the aid of his Cousin Annie, who is moving next door. While Henry and his family are delighted, careful Annie views the move with trepidation. She's so nervous that she has broken out in blotches contemplating moving her frilly dresses, shiny shoes, and lace hankies. Henry offers his time-tested remedy for nervousness: a snuggle under the covers with Mudge. Rylant thoughtfully addresses Annie's dilemma, validating a child's concerns and providing a generous solution. Stevenson's gaily colored pen-and-ink illustrations provide a perfect counterpart to the story, deftly highlighting Annie's vulnerability as well as the humor in Henry and Mudge's antics. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
TULIP SEES AMERICA by Cynthia Rylant
ADVENTURE
Released: May 1, 1998

Inspired by her own journey westward, Rylant puts a young traveler and his dog, Tulip, into a green VW Beetle and sends them from Ohio to Oregon. Each state brings a new wonder: farms in Iowa, skies "like one great long breath of freedom and air" in Nebraska, wind in Wyoming, mountains in Colorado, a wide desert in Nevada, a sudden ocean in Oregon. Using computer-manipulated oil paintings, Desimini creates a series of full-bleed, undulant landscapes with the strong shadows and compressed perspectives of dioramas. The title is hyperbolic, but Rylant's poetic language and the art's striking forms and colors communicate equal strength and intensity of feeling. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE STARRY NIGHT by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1998

Rylant (Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers, 1998, etc.) slips into a sentimental mode for this latest outing of the boy and his dog, as she sends Mudge and Henry and his parents off on a camping trip. Each character is attended to, each personality sketched in a few brief words: Henry's mother is the camping veteran with outdoor savvy; Henry's father doesn't know a tent stake from a marshmallow fork, but he's got a guitar for campfire entertainment; and the principals are their usual ready-for-fun selves. There are sappy moments, e.g., after an evening of star- gazing, Rylant sends the family off to bed with: ``Everyone slept safe and sound and there were no bears, no scares. Just the clean smell of trees . . . and wonderful green dreams.'' With its nice tempo, the story is as toasty as its campfire and swaddled in Stevenson's trusty artwork. (Fiction. 6-8) Read full book review >
SCARECROW by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1998

A scarecrow with a friendliness toward birds takes the long view on what constitutes a satisfying experience. His physical construction is borrowed bits and pieces, a hat here, a suit there, button eyes out of someone's drawer. But he is more than the sum of his parts: He possesses a peace and wisdom born of quiet observation. He sees seeds that transform into giant sunflowers and mammoth pumpkins, and takes in the sun and the moon, owls in the evening, and rabbits at dawn. Birds keep him company as he watches the passage of the seasons, and as he watches a girl, preparing, planting, tending, and harvesting her bountiful garden. Rylant (The Islander, p. 200, etc.) is in fine form with her lyrical, understated prose, and Stringer's big, bold acrylic illustrations do a lovely job of amplifying the text, bringing in the child who is not directly mentioned. The art captures the scarecrow's point of view, from the sweeping panorama of rolling hills and wide sky, to the close-up details: a morning glory twining around his feet and a mouse building a nest in his hat. (Picture book. 6-12) Read full book review >
THE ISLANDER by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1998

A young man learns to accept love and loss in this resonant novel from Rylant (see review, above). Daniel was only a boy when his parents were killed in a plane crash and so his grandfather, who lived with him on the remote island of Coquille, off British Columbia, became his guardian. Rylant suggests that it was perhaps because Daniel was so numbed by grief that he was more open to the extraordinary occurrence of his chance meeting with a mermaid. Through the mermaid's gift of a key, which vibrates whenever Daniel is near a wounded animal, he learns that he is a natural healer; later, as the key leads to the recovery of Franny, a young girl who is lost, Daniel discovers, of course, that the key unlocks his own heart. The shy boy who once avoided his neighbors becomes a vital member of the island's small community, a son to his loving grandfather, and the perfect future husband for Franny. When his grandfather dies, Daniel finds that his spirit is again forged by grief, but he emerges stalwart, compassionate, and open to what life offers: ``I do know that I once believed heaven was only clouds and sky,'' Daniel says. ``But now I wonder if it might be as well the dark and mysterious sea.'' In these precious hundred pages, Rylant reassures her readers that while there is joy and agony in life, there is magic, as well. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE SNEAKY CRACKERS by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1998

In this hearty episode of the Henry and Mudge Ready-to-Read saga from Rylant (Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind, 1993, etc.), the boy and his canine best friend become spies. Henry buys a spy kit complete with secret codes, spy glasses, and a magnifying glass. Mudge gets to wear the fedora. With the admonishment ``not to look like you're spying, Mudge'' they stumble over a coded message. When the very able Henry cracks the cipher, it turns out to be from another boy with a kit—and a dog—like his. The two boys form a club, the Crackers, as a tribute to their code- breaking talents, and for the crackers they carry to keep their dogs happy. How Rylant manages to invest both Henry and Mudge with such distinct, disarming personalities in so few words is a minor miracle, but she does, and Stevenson works wonders, too, creating an idyllic neighborhood in which a very safe kind of espionage can transpire. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
POPPLETON AND FRIENDS by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

In this second outing for the kindly pig (Poppleton, 1997), readers learn that the keys to happiness are in sharing, kindness, and friendship. Rylant (see review above) features Poppleton's genial interactions with his friends Hudson, a mouse, and Cherry Sue, a llama, in three easy-to-read chapters. The first story is the strongest, when Poppleton boards a bus for the beach and a group of amiable older ladies share songs, poker secrets, and laughs with him and Hudson. At the beach, Poppleton and Hudson enjoy an easy companionship and then recall their good day for Cherry Sue when they return home. In the second story, good-natured Cherry Sue helps Poppleton battle ``dry skin'' while gently prompting the pig to clean up. In the final story, Poppleton discovers that friendship is the secret to living a long life, a comforting thoughtsimple and pure at heart. This is a far stronger showing than the first book, and Teague makes Rylant's characters all the more lovable. (Fiction. 6-8) Read full book review >
THE BLUE HILL MEADOWS by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Rylant (Cat Heaven, p. 1035, etc.) presents four seasonal stories about the Meadow family of Blue Hill, Virginia, where the pace is gentle, and where there is time to stop and savor life. Although readers get to know the entire family, the central character is the younger of two boys, Willie. In summer they adopt a stray dog and are thrilled when she has seven puppies. In the fall, Willie and his father make a private fishing trip. A blizzard brings excitement to their lives, and in spring Willie pays tribute to his mother with an original and perfect Mother's Day gift. With its focus on everyday family life, this is a quiet, old-fashioned book, relying on Rylant's lyrical prose, fine attention to detail, and understated humor that will make readers wish they could move in with the Meadows. Beier's illustrations, interspersed throughout, feature landscapes, household objects, and the animal members of the family—all the details of a beloved home. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
CAT HEAVEN by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Every bit as rich in eye-dimming sentiment as Dog Heaven (1995), this will kindle sighs even from the feline-indifferent. Writing in rhyme, Rylant assures readers that all cats already know the way to heaven's yellow door, and once past it will never want for laps, toys, or full kitty dishes. Rylant paints in the same extremely naive style of the first book, with large brushes and bright, opaque colors; heaven is a place with trees and clouds to perch on, fields to leap through—and a garden full of tall flowers, where God walks ``with a good black book [``Garden Tips''] and a kitty asleep on His head.'' Comforting and amiable, this is tinged with gentle humor. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER AND TABBY ROW THE BOAT by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1997

A great little entry in Rylant and Howard's easy-to-read series (Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears, 1995, etc.), about the adventures of a charming elderly man and his lovably skittish cat, shown in wonderfully expressive illustrations. Mr. Putter and Tabby are too old to be so hot: They sweat on the porch, in the kitchen, and under the oak tree, and finally decide to go down to the big pond to cool off. They invite Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, and the rest of the afternoon is filled with simple summer pleasures: rowing, picnicking, soaking toes in the cool water, watching Tabby and Zeke find their own amusements. Of course, when it is time to go home, they get hot and sweaty again, but Mrs. Teaberry finds a delightful, if fleeting, solution to that. Full of down-to-earth touches as well as whimsical ones—a blue jay tries to peck the artificial grapes on Mrs. Teaberry's hat, Mr. Putter's reminisces about the county worm race he won with an entrant named Jack—this is a comfortable and nifty addition to the series. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
POPPLETON by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1997

The first book in a proposed series of easy readers from the usually reliable Rylant (The Bookshop Dog, p. 1055) is an unqualified flop. Poppleton, dressed in coat, tie, and bowler, tires of city life and moves to a small town. Three stories follow that require neither a small-town setting nor a recent move. In the first, ``Neighbors,'' the limits of friendship are excessively defined when Cherry Sue invites Poppleton over too often, and he sprays her with the garden hose (instead of simply turning down the invitation) in his frustration over the situation. ``The Library'' shows how serious Poppleton is about his library day- -every Monday—as he sits at a table, spreads out his belongings, and reads an adventure. In ``The Pill,'' a sick friend who needs medicine asks Poppleton to disguise his pill in one of the many pieces of cake he consumes, recalling the tale in which Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad try to make some cookies inaccessible, but cannot thwart their own appetites. The stories are unimaginative and poorly plotted, without the taut language and endearing humor of Rylant's Henry and Mudge tales or her Mr. Putter and Tabby books. Teague's scenes of a small town are charming but have no real story in which to take root, and the book is printed on cardboard-weight stock that all but overwhelms the format. (Fiction. 4-7) Read full book review >
THE BOOKSHOP DOG by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A sweet tale of canine love. Martha Jane is a yellow lab. Her owner loves her so much that she takes her everywhere, and names her business after her: ``Martha Jane's Bookshop.'' But when the woman learns that she must go to the hospital for a tonsillectomy, she worries. Who will take care of Martha Jane? A brawl ensues, as the dog's many friends vie for the privilege of caring for her. Then one of Martha Jane's most ardent admirers arrives. ``He knelt down beside Martha Jane and stroked her smooth head and kissed her warm white face and told her what an angel dog she was.'' Martha Jane chooses this man, and so does the woman: She marries him. In tight, gently lyrical prose, woven with plenty of tongue- in-cheek humor, Rylant (The Old Woman Who Named Things, p. 452, etc.) tells not only a story of a shop and its keepers, but of an entire community possessing loads of good will. Rylant's visual depiction of Martha Jane is ever so appealing, and if the primitive illustrations don't please everyone, the story and its sentiments certainly will. (Picture book. 3+) Read full book review >
THE WHALES by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1996

Romantic, often odd, musings on the lives of whales. Some lines are witty: ``They swim in places with beautiful names. Past Cape Farewell, they say good-bye''; others are precious, as when the babies ``gasp at the loveliness of living.'' The isolated phrases float in the sweeping acrylic illustrations, done in the colors of the sea and sky and often abstract. They depict big shapes (different kinds of whales), surrounded with streaks and sponged smears of color, and have atmospheric breadth—the sense of enormous bodies moving silently underwater. Rylant (Dog Heaven, 1995, etc.) can be counted upon for lyrical phrasing and keen observation, but these philosophical thoughts seem far too subjective to have meaning for young readers. (Picture book. 8-11) Read full book review >
THE OLD WOMAN WHO NAMED THINGS by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1996

Once there was a woman who was so old that she had outlived all her friends. She doesn't like being all alone without anyone to call by name, so she names things, but only the ones she can't outlive: Her bed is Roxanne, her house is Franklin, her chair is Fred, and her car is Betsy. One day a shy brown puppy appears at the gate; she feeds him and tells him to go home. He comes every day, and she always feeds him, but she never, ever names him. The day the dog doesn't come to her gate is a sad one; when more days go by with no sign of him, the old woman knows what she must do. Rylant (The Whales, p. 142, etc.) makes her humorous text spare and still, leaving plenty of room for the comedy in Brown's quirky watercolors. The old woman's hair is wound into an impossibly tall chignon; her cowboy boots are just as impossibly pointy. Betsy is a smiling 60s Chevy with fins, and the shy brown dog would worm its way into anyone's heart. Above all, the seaside cottage, riotous garden, and Rylant's words evoke a life that has been—and continues to be—lived well. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
GOOSEBERRY PARK by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

In a humorous contemporary fable about friendship, courage, and loyalty, Rylant (Dog Heaven, p. 951, etc.) creates an unlikely trio of friends: Stumpy, a red squirrel, Kona, a Labrador, and Gwendolyn, a hermit crab. They are joined by Murray, a dumpster- scavenging bat with a fondness for egg rolls. When an ice storm topples the pine oak containing Stumpy's nest, Kona ventures to the rescue. He and Murray save Stumpy's children, but where is Stumpy? It's a simple story, but the tongue-in-cheek humor is sophisticated and funny. Murray's way with words and his single-minded pursuit of junk food provide much of the humor, but the other characters come through, too. A tender tale delivered by a sure hand. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
DOG HEAVEN by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Rylant's debut as a picture book illustrator (not to be confused with her board book debut as a collagist in The Everyday Books, 1993) offers sweet comfort to all who have lost loved ones, pets or otherwise. ``When dogs go to Heaven, they don't need wings because God knows that dogs love running best. He gives them fields. Fields and fields and fields.'' There are geese to bark at, plenty of children, biscuits, and, for those that need them, homes. In page- filling acrylics, small, simply brushed figures float against huge areas of bright colors: pictures infused with simple, doggy joy. At the end, an old man leans on a cane as he walks up a slope toward a small white dog: ``Dogs in Dog Heaven may stay as long as they like. . . .They will be there when old friends show up. They will be there at the door.'' Pure, tender, lyrical without being overearnest, and deeply felt. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER AND TABBY PICK THE PEARS by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

From Rylant (Dog Heaven, p. 951, etc.), a fourth pairing of good-natured Mr. Putter and sidekick Tabby. The old cat has a cranky tail that's too stiff to swish and the old man has cranky legs that can't get up a ladder. Unable to get to his juicy pears for some yearned-for pear jelly, Mr. Putter rigs a slingshot out of underwear elastic and``ZING!!!!!''fires off a fallen apple. Instead of knocking a pear off the tree, it whizzes over his rooftop and out of sight. Delighted with his ``jiffy arms,'' Mr. Putter forgets all about the pears, and zings into the night. The next day, neighborly Mrs. Teaberry reaps an unexpected bounty (``I don't even have an apple tree!'') and surprises Mr. Putter with feast of apple preparations. A funny, easy-going beginning reader, with quirky, always affectionate, cartoons. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
THE VAN GOGH CAFE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 1995

Scenes from a cafe in Flowers, Kansas, where ``magic'' mingles with everyday life. Apart from the cafe itself, there are two fixed points in the book: the owner, Marc, and his daughter, Clara, 10. Everything around them is in an impressionistic state of flux, and enchantment comes in a succession of gusts that slowly gather momentum, become a mistral, and then evaporate. Lightning strikes the cafe and in the next few weeks the food cooks itself to perfection, while Marc starts writing poems that foretell the future; an old film star makes a quiet entrance and a peaceful final exit; a writer finds something like inspiration in the setting. These are peculiar episodes, described in fine-tuned prose, with every description, rhythm, and syntax positioned to create, overall, a perfectly smooth surface, along which the narrator glides like a figure-skater: always a little distant from the action, constantly reflecting on what constitutes magic and what makes a story. This little book never stops rushing forward. Every chapter points to the next, in which something even more wonderful may happen. The present-tense narrative creates a sense of the future; it becomes the tense of excited anticipation. Rylant (Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, 1994, etc.) has no need for a car crash or someone jumping off a bridge to entertain; this one does it with the light-filled strokes of ordinary events. (Fiction. 8- 12) Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER AND TABBY BAKE THE CAKE by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Mr. Putter is a conscientious gift-giver, and for Christmas this year he wants to give his good friend and neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, something very special. He knows that Mrs. Teaberry adores weird gifts, like coconuts made to look like the heads of monkeys and walking, wind-up salt shakers. She also loves fruitcake, which worries Mr. Putter. So he decides to make her a light and airy Christmas cake, one that won't break her toe if it drops on it. Trouble is, Mr. Putter doesn't know the first thing about baking cakes. Determined Mr. Putter gets the advice of an expert, buys $100 worth of equipment, and stays up all Christmas Eve baking under the watchful eye of his cat companion, Tabby. After three failed attempts, Mr. Putter finally creates the most marvelous cake. He wraps it up and brings it over to Mrs. Teaberry and then promptly falls asleep. The friends share the cake 12 hours later when Mr. Putter wakes up. Rylant (Something Permanent, p. 706, etc.) doesn't need many words to pack a whole lot of personality into this fun early chapter book. (Fiction. 6-10) Read full book review >
SOMETHING PERMANENT by Cynthia Rylant
POETRY
Released: May 1, 1994

Classic photos taken under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration ``to document the country during the Great Depression'' are matched with succinct poems that awaken the imagination to real lives behind b&w images that, more often than not, are unpeopled. ``And when the children would come in/from working the fields,/their bellies aching with hunger,'' begins ``Utensils,'' which faces a spare photo of a few forks and spoons hung on a rough wall. Two gaunt men are hanging around a bleak building: ``So what are you gonna do/while you're waiting for/a little work,/'cept...swap some stories./Hell, story's the only thing that's free in this world.'' Or a window box brims with life: ``And he thought that if he could/just get those plants up...he might be able/to smile at his kids,/make love to his wife....'' Suggesting whole stories but never insisting, Rylant's lean, evocative verse opens windows of meaning into these quietly eloquent scenes. Across the decades, a fine collaboration. (Poetry. 10+) Read full book review >
MR. PUTTER AND TABBY POUR THE TEA by Cynthia Rylant
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1994

Mr. Putter craves someone to share his muffins and tea and stories; sensibly ignoring the pet store lady's conviction that only ``cute,'' ``peppy'' kittens are worthy (``Mr. Putter himself had not been cute and peppy for a very long time''), he goes to the animal shelter and chooses an old yellow cat—a little deaf, and with thinning hair, like him. It goes without saying that the two become comfortable companions. Rylant's apt descriptions and artful repetitions set this easy reader and its sequel (Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, ISBN: 0-15-256259-1) a cut above the competition, though not on a par with her own incomparable Henry and Mudge. Howard catches the story's appealing pathos, as well as its humor, in a practiced cartoon style. (Easy reader. 4- 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 >
I HAD SEEN CASTLES by Cynthia Rylant
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

John Dante is so enmeshed in WW II's patriotic fever that he can hardly wait for his 18th birthday, in 1942, to enlist. Meanwhile, his sister, stricken with empathy and concern, is engaged to two soldiers and pregnant by a third; Dad, a nuclear physicist, is called from Pittsburgh to California for secret research; and John falls sweetly, ardently in love with pretty Ginny, who urges him to become a conscientious objector. To John, her fervent pacifism is incomprehensible; but as he endures active combat, without relief, until 1945, stereotypes give way to the reality of the enemy's humanity, and Ginny's ideas become clear. Still, after his long immersion in horror, John never communicates with her again—until a message at the end of this novel, narrated in 1992 when he's a retired professor in Canada: ``I want you to know that I am really alive. And I still love you.'' Yet John has not been ``alive'' as he might have been: a lifelong solitary, he was even driven from his home by the war (``I could not stay in America because America had not suffered''). Excising all but the essential explanations (we never learn how Ginny became a CO) to focus on John's spiritual journey and the events that shape it, Rylant depicts—with some irony and much insight and compassion—the tragedy of young men putting aside their true selves (``We were the ghosts of boys and we had come to believe in nothing but each other'') to meet war's terrible demands. A brief tale, in wonderfully spare language and imagery, with a poignant love story and an unexpectedly quiet, melancholy conclusion. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
EVERYDAY HOUSE by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 31, 1993

One of five board books, the Newbery winner's illustration debut (the others: Everyday Children, Garden, Pets, and Town). Each surveys the child's domain in verse that's close to doggerel, like the impromptu chants of an articulate parent (``The Everyday House/plink-plinks in the rain;/in the snow/it is covered with white./The moon gives it moonlight,/the sun gives it sun,/and a family makes it all/just right''), captioning collages of flat, simplified forms cut from vibrantly colored paper. A minor effort, but the subjects and attractive graphics are sure to appeal. (Picture book. 0-3) Read full book review >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE WILD WIND by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 30, 1993

Not only the wind but the thunder and lightning send the boy and his dog scurrying for home, where Mudge whines as he circles the kitchen table and Henry whistles the same tunes over and over to keep up his courage. His parents, sipping tea in the middle, ``just looked at each other,'' while Dad creates a diversion: When the lights go out and Mudge hides his head in the couch, he suggests that Henry play the game of ``Crawling-Though-the-Enemy- Lines,'' braving the ``cannon'' he can hear as he makes his way through the dining room with a flashlight to rescue Mudge from the ``enemy couch.'' The 12th totally disarming picture of this nice family solving everyday problems with imagination and a sense of fun. And Stevenson's illustrations are as lively and comical as ever. (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE LONG WEEKEND by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 31, 1992

Making what must be a record for high quality and longevity in a series, the small boy and his large dog make an 11th appearance—this time in a story about a boring, wet weekend that's transformed by a creative family project. It's Mom's idea to build a castle from two appliance boxes; each bringing their own plans and dreams, she and Henry, Dad and Mudge throw themselves into construction, sending out for pizza when they get hungry. In a nice bit of economical plotting, Mom drops out on Sunday morning: the idea person doesn't always have the most follow-through, but it also frees her to be gratifyingly surprised by the splendid final result. Stevenson's illustrations are as merry and deft as ever, and a warm good time is had by all—especially the reader. (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >
MISSING MAY by Cynthia Rylant
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1992

A gifted writer returns to one of her favorite themes—love- -in this case, as it can inform and transform grief. After her mother's death, Summer was handed from one unwilling relative to another, ``treated like a homework assignment somebody was always having to do.'' At six, she was taken in by an elderly uncle and aunt. Ob had a game leg (WW II) and enjoyed creating unusual whirligigs; May liked gardening behind their West Virginia trailer. They loved each other with a deep and abiding love, wholeheartedly including Summer. Now, six years later, May has died. In a poetic, ruminative narrative, Summer recounts Ob's mounting depression, his growing conviction that May is still present, and their expedition to find ``Miriam B. Conklin: Small Medium at Large.'' Meanwhile, they've been befriended by Cletus, an odd, bright boy in Summer's class; she doesn't especially value his company, but is intrigued by his vocabulary (``surreal''; ``Renaissance Man'') and his offhand characterization of her as a writer. The quest seems to fail- -Reverend Conklin has died—but on the way home Ob finally puts aside his grief to take the two young people to the state capitol as promised: ``Right out of the blue, he wanted to live again.'' Rylant reveals a great deal about her four characters, deftly dropping telling details from the past into her quiet story—including a glimpse of Summer, as seen by a girl in her class, ``like some sad welfare case,'' a description the reader who has read her thoughts will know to be gloriously untrue. A beautifully written, life-affirming book. (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >
AN ANGEL FOR SOLOMON SINGER by Cynthia Rylant
FICTION
Released: March 1, 1992

Old Solomon lives alone in a dreary hotel on N.Y.C.'s Upper West Side, longing for things he can't have—a balcony, a picture window to see the birds, the freedom to paint his wall purple. Not loving where he lives, he wanders the streets, where he finds the Westway Cafe. He likes the name—it reminds him of his native Indiana; he responds to a friendly waiter's smile (whose name turns out to be Angel); and, pursuing his own dreams, he imagines ordering the things he yearns for along with the tomato soup. In time, this tenuous beginning transforms Solomon's outlook: he begins to enjoy the city lights, feels friendlier, and makes at least one dream come true by secretly adopting a cat. This tender vignette, narrated with eloquent simplicity, has appeal for almost any age; Catalanotto's empathetic watercolors extend (but certainly don't limit) the range to younger children. Using telling details and an evanescent blend of imagination and reality, as he did so effectively for Lyon's Cecil's Story (1991), he poignantly evokes Solomon Singer's loneliness and poverty and the way one warm human contact changes him. A very special union of text and art in a memorable portrait of one lost old man who symbolizes many more. (Fiction/Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
HENRY AND MUDGE TAKE THE BIG TEST by Cynthia Rylant
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1991

In ``The Tenth Book of Their Adventures,'' Henry realizes that Mudge has never been taught such commands as ``sit'' and ``heel.'' With the help of a patient teacher, home practice, and innumerable ``liver treats,'' the huge dog does learn to ``stay,'' at least long enough to pass his training course— though Mudge's forte is clearly being lovable rather than obedient. Not the best in this grand series, but still a fine story for beginners, with appealing characters, lifelike situations, and charmingly comical illustrations. (Easy reader. 5-8) 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 >
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE BEDTIME THUMPS by Cynthia Rylant
Released: March 29, 1991

In their ninth book, the little boy and his huge dog visit Henry's grandmother; who accepts Mudge's drooling with unexpected aplomb; however, after Mudge knocks down a third thing in her crowded little house, he's banished outdoors—leaving Henry alone and apprehensive in a strange place at bedtime. As always, Rylant's telling is affectionately humorous and the conclusion is a realistic, amusing surprise. Still tops. Read full book review >

Old Mr. Griggs—who works for the U.S. Post Office—lives, breathes, and adores his work: he still wonders what became of a Christmas fruitcake, missing for 15 years; he is so fascinated with the minutiae of postal rates that he sometimes gets up in the middle of the night to look them up. Holes always remind him of mailboxes, and chipmunks of a 1978 commemorative stamp. After a day out sick, he returns to the post office like a swain to his lost love. This is not just a valentine to the Protestant Ethic; it's also a prescription for a truly happy existence—an example of a character who takes satisfaction in doing rather than in having. Mr. Griggs should intrigue children with his ingenuous single-mindedness, a deliciously witty alternative to "the good life." In a departure from the elegant style used for Prince Boghole (1987), Downing's illustrations here are pastel drawings on textured paper, their lively informality extending the story's humor. Good for group-sharing; and don't forget to give this to teachers of primary classes studying community helpers. Read full book review >

In a sixth book about Henry and his gigantic dog, Dad joins in a happy day playing at the beach. Imaginative touches make Rylant's writing special here: it's Dad who takes along not only six towels and a book on shells but a red rubber lobster, which later tops the castle that he and Henry build, and which Mudge rescues after the tide comes in and knocks clown the castle. There must be dozens of books about a day at the beach; but, between the lines of her apparently unassuming text, Rylant captures the sense of freedom, delight, and wonder (the forever sea) of that experience as few authors have. The spirit of earnest yet lighthearted play is reflected and extended in Stevenson's amiable illustrations. Read full book review >