Books by David McPhail

David McPhail has illustrated more than 100 books for children, and has received numerous state awards and honors. Some of his best-selling titles are I Love You Because You’re You and If You Were My Bunny. He lives in Rye, New Hampshire.

I AM JUST RIGHT by David McPhail
Released: March 19, 2019

"Just right indeed. (Early reader. 4-8)"
Just 27 words, used repeatedly and modeled by an adorable anthropomorphic bunny, provide practice for the youngest beginning readers. Read full book review >
JUMP by David McPhail
by David McPhail, illustrated by David McPhail
Released: July 17, 2018

"Don't expect the newest readers to sit still for this one. They'll want to jump right into reading. (Early reader. 4-8)"
One powerful verb, simply repeated, makes for an action-packed beginning reader. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 13, 2018

Somewhat longer than most early readers but not quite a chapter book, McPhail's latest offering is distinguished by an old-fashioned sweetness. Read full book review >
HOOKED by Tommy Greenwald
Released: Jan. 9, 2018

"The message for caregivers is not at all subtle, but kids like Joe need them to hear it. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A young angler finally catches The Big One, but it's not what readers expect. Read full book review >
WHO LOVES ME? by David McPhail
Released: Dec. 5, 2017

"A lovely and reassuring tale. (Board book. 2-5)"
A little raccoon is well-loved. Read full book review >
I HUG  by David McPhail
Released: Aug. 15, 2017

"Ideal for the newest of new readers, this tender title's usefulness may be limited to a very narrow developmental window, but it'll do yeoman work within it. (Early reader. 4-8)"
McPhail's newest in the I Like to Read series hinges on pivot grammar. Read full book review >
I PROMISE by David McPhail
Released: March 7, 2017

"Ideal for starting discussions about promises and expressing motherly love. (Picture book. 3-6)"
A wise mother bear teaches her cub all about promises as they enjoy a day spent together. Read full book review >
CRASH! THE CAT by David McPhail
Released: Sept. 15, 2016

"A sadly run-of-the-mill effort from such a name as McPhail. (Picture book. 2-7)"
Crash is a feline wrecking crew! Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 30, 2016

"McPhail's soft but unsentimental pen-and-ink drawings completed with muted watercolors strike a pleasant balance between real toddler activities and imaginative play. (Board book. 1-4)"
Following the formula established in Ben Loves Bear (2013), Bella Loves Bunny (2013), and Peter Loves Penguin (2014), McPhail here completes his board-book tour of the seasons. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 6, 2015

"Humble and lovely. (Picture book/biography. 3-6)"
A small girl named Beatrix Potter spends her childhood painting. Read full book review >
I PLAY by David McPhail
Released: July 28, 2015

"Despite the brevity of the text, the humor embedded in the illustrations will engage even adults, who will doubtless be asked to 'read it again.' (Board book. 1-3)"
Find a baby and play together with this board book geared to the attention spans of very young children. Read full book review >
BUNNY'S FIRST SPRING by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Released: Jan. 15, 2015

"The concluding quotation and the subtext of rebirth make this an oh-so-subtle Easter title that readers may well miss. (Picture book/religion. 3-6)"
A charming baby bunny experiences seasonal changes in his environment throughout his first year of life in this emotion-filled story from the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible (2007). Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 7, 2014

"A sweet addition to a winning series. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)"
A little boy and his stuffed penguin enjoy an early-morning romp in the snow. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2014

"An original, rousing mouse adventure in the tradition of Stuart Little. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
A kindhearted orphan girl and a clever mouse join forces to expose an illegal baby-selling operation in a Philadelphia orphanage. Read full book review >
ANDREW DRAWS by David McPhail
Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"Inspiring. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A young boy discovers he can work magic with his drawings. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 5, 2014

"Clarity and humor carry the day. (Board book. 1-2)
A piglet toddler learns to walk. Read full book review >
BAD DOG by David McPhail
Released: March 15, 2014

"Tom is full of curiosity, like a lot of young'uns. Not bad at all. (Early reader. 2-7)"
A preschool-age boy narrates this short early reader, a straightforward story about a mischievous dog and the boy who loves him. Read full book review >
Released: March 12, 2013

"A lovely depiction of a first friendship. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)"
A young girl enjoys the company of her stuffed rabbit from sunup to sundown. Read full book review >
BEN LOVES BEAR by David McPhail
Released: Jan. 1, 2013

"Already a gifted artist, McPhail proves here that he intrinsically understands what the youngest readers want and need. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)"
A lovely, toddler-friendly tale of a little boy's relationship with his teddy bear. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 9, 2012

"A sweet depiction of sleepy animals that will especially please McPhail fans. (Picture book. 2-4)"
Alliteration and animals add up to a child asleep in this latest offering from picture-book veterans Dragonwagon and McPhail. Read full book review >
SICK DAY by David McPhail
Released: Sept. 1, 2012

"Just doesn't compare to Shelley Moore Thomas and Jennifer Plecas' similarly themed Get Well, Good Knight (2002) or even to the trio's prior adventure. (Early reader. 4-7)"
A sick boy's devoted friends try to help him feel better. Read full book review >
THE FAMILY TREE by David McPhail
Released: March 27, 2012

"Good intentions; confusing execution. (Picture book. 5-8)"
The love of an ancient tree leads a boy to unlikely activism. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2012

"Kids will giggle at the striped-pajama-clad Pig Pig's silly antics in this latest escapade. (Picture book. 2-5)"
MacPhail's penchant for pigs hasn't ebbed, as he proves in adding another Pig Pig tale to his series; this one incorporates a grammar device. Read full book review >
BOY, BIRD, AND DOG by David McPhail
Released: Sept. 15, 2011

"This one could work as a read-aloud, child to adult, with lots of pictorial details to notice and talk about. A sweet, gentle charmer. (Early reader. 4-7)"
Boy has a small adventure in a tree house with Bird and Dog. Read full book review >
PIG PIG RETURNS by David McPhail
Released: July 1, 2011

"Many kids, like Pig Pig, thrive on routine; reading this over and over is likely to become part of many young readers' routines. (Picture book. 3-7)"
The clever title reveals two meanings: First, that a classic character stars in a new book for the first time in decades; second, that this story is likely to end in a satisfying return home. Read full book review >
Released: June 7, 2011

Poorly paced text delivers a choppy story unlikely to engage readers despite McPhail's familiar, endearing art. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2011

Gentle storytelling and a clever concept set this bedtime book apart from the pack. A little bear asks his mama to tell him what they did that day, only backwards. Together, the two of them recount Timmy's adventures and quiet moments, from taking an unexpected dip in a pool to eating some delicious honey to seeing a pack of beautiful purple butterflies. When they've gone through the whole day, back to the beginning, Mama reminds Timmy that before anything happened they were hibernating but that tonight they'll just sleep one night. Inspired by a game his own family played, Lamb's simple effect-and-cause backwards progression manages to always make perfect sense. "I ran and jumped off a high, high rock into the deep pool," Timmy recalls. "And before that?" prompts his mother: "I was chased by bees, and they were stinging me!" Kids may take a couple readings to fully grasp the author's intent, but few books illustrate the notion of "before" better than this. McPhail's always playful and evocative illustrations set against a beautiful countryside perfectly capture this original way of remembering a day's events. An exceptional idea and a truly fine follow through. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
WADDLES by David McPhail
Released: March 1, 2011

McPhail's latest follows a year in the life of Waddles, a rotund raccoon, and his best friend, Emily, a duck who lives in the pond near Waddles' tree home. They share companionship, swimming forays and, sometimes, dining adventures. When Emily lays her eggs in the spring, Waddles brings her food every day, then offers to sit on the nest in her place to give her swim breaks. Hortonlike, Waddles determinedly guards his charges, even against a hungry fox. When the ducklings hatch beneath his soft, warm fur, Waddles brings the new babies down to the pond to meet their mother, ushering in a fun-filled summer. Sadness is on the horizon with winter, though, as Emily tells Waddles that she and the ducklings must fly south, and he is left bereft in the cold, not even able to muster his usual voracious appetite. Then spring and Emily and the now not-so-tiny ducklings return. Food tastes good to Waddles again, though he realizes fullness really comes from the heart, not the tummy. Purportedly a story about how much Waddles loves to eat and perhaps even meant to be a cautionary tale about overeating, this aspect of the story quickly gets lost. The charming, expressive paintings that capture the friends' cozy relationship are the real draw in this friendship story. (Picture book. 3- 6)Read full book review >
EMILY STEW by Thomas Rockwell
Released: March 1, 2010

From the deliciously twisted mind that first advised a former generation of elementary readers How to Eat Fried Worms comes a wildly inventive poetic portrait of a riveting character who's made up—rather literally—of a stew of contradictions. Moody and prone to the most erratic behavior, Emily is depicted in these playful rhymed vignettes as an eccentric yet eminently recognizable and likable young creature: "Emily Rose / wouldn't wear clothes"; "Emily Phlox / hated clocks"; "Emily Grief / could get no relief." McPhail's pen-and-ink spot art helps capture the defiant Emily as she asserts her individuality in scenes ranging from dancing with a fish to being eaten by a tiger (which, happily, banishes ennui). The poet's sophisticated silliness engages the imagination while offering the occasional wry philosophical observation—"Does a clock ever know what a moment means?"—that gives readers of all ages pause. Much more than nonsense verse, it's a revealing window into budding autonomy that is sure to delight children and parents alike. Final art not seen. (Poetry. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 5, 2010

Little ones who are messy, fussy, noisy and not particularly perfect in every way seek assurances that Mama will love them in spite of their faults. Whether in the guise of a puppy, wildebeest, porcupine, calf or lamb, even the youngest readers will recognize themselves and be comforted. Evans simply and gently addresses the basic human need for unwavering mother love. Each bit of naughtiness and its resolution takes the form of a question and a rhymed response in a voice that is always kind and accepting. As a coda to the work, a human child who is reading the book with his mama is similarly reassured with a strong statement of undying love. McPhail's softly framed illustrations in warm tones highlighted with pinks and blues depict the actions and emotions with charm and humor without ever falling into the trap of cuteness. It begs to be a bedtime read-aloud and is a worthy companion to the do-you-love-me standards Guess How Much I Love You and Mama Do You Love Me? Sweet and dreamy. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2009

Man's best friend makes a bid to become mankind's best friend in this tale of wagging tails and world peace. Though a normal puppy in every sense of the word, Weezer acquires a heightened intelligence when a bolt of lightning strikes him on the noggin. Suddenly the pup is interested in math, science and interior design. As time goes by, he tackles disaster relief, an end to disease, solutions to pollution and, finally, mediation between nations. His spate of good deeds comes to an abrupt end when a second lightning bolt renders him doglike once more. Fortunately the people of the world vow to carry on in his name. With this canine interpretation of "Flowers for Algernon," McPhail tones down the didacticism, understanding that while having a message is important there's no need to hit readers over the head with it. His customary watercolor washes are set against a series of white backdrops, resulting in a light and airy concoction that enjoys only the daintiest suggestion of a moral. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: April 28, 2009

Spinelli's When Mama Comes Home Tonight, illustrated by Jane Dyer (1998), celebrated the nightly reunion of working mother with child. This companion presents readers with a working father (the frontispiece shows him dashing out of a bank, briefcase in hand) who joyfully meets his waiting child at the gate at the end of the day. The child has either been home alone all day or his caregiver has snuck out the back door, as McPhail provides no evidence of any other nurturing presence as the two cook and eat dinner, play, repair a toy wagon and enjoy a bedtime story. This overachieving dad even makes his kid a kite while he's asleep. While Spinelli's verse scans as gracefully as in its companion, this makes for an odd alternative-family portrait. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BUDGIE & BOO by David McPhail
Released: April 1, 2009

Jewel-toned watercolors and three simple tales of friendship distinguish McPhail's latest outing. The titular Budgie and Boo, a bear and bunny, respectively, are roommates, gardeners and best friends. The first story recounts their discovery of a leak above Boo's bed in the morning. Number two depicts Boo's attempts the fix the leak in the afternoon, despite Budgie's "help." And finally, in the evening the two friends go for a walk only to find themselves in a briefly scary situation. The evocative two-page spreads that introduce each section are lovely enough to be worth the price of admission alone. The simple text, however, is only serviceable and not particularly original. Yet while it doesn't have the same kick as Laura Vaccaro Seeger's Dog and Bear (2007) or James Howe and Marie-Louise Gay's Houndsley and Catina series, McPhail's die-hard fans will be certain to find something to enjoy here. Sweet fare. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
NO! by David McPhail
by David McPhail, illustrated by David McPhail
Released: March 1, 2009

An oddly didactic fable from a benign source. A small boy sets off to mail a letter. As he walks he passes airplanes bombing homes, tanks attacking buildings and soldiers abusing the public. At the mailbox a bigger boy makes to beat up our hero, but is set back a piece when the boy yells a definitive "No!"—the only word of dialogue in this tale. As the boy walks back, he and readers observe that the soldiers are friendly, the tank has become a plow and the planes drop bicycles not bombs. Finally readers see that the boy's letter was to the president: After listing his school's rules ("NO PUSHING / NO PUNCHING") it ends, "Do you have any rules?" The general idea is that if one says "No!" to bullies, rather than just saying nothing, the world becomes a better place. This message is clear, though the packaging is not, as the early violence doesn't sit well with the later idyllic scenes of peace and harmony. Certainly some adults will find this pseudo-Sendakian tale moving, but the message is wrapped in a self-righteous format that doesn't work effectively for its intended audience. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
WHEN I WAS KING by Linda Ashman
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

An older brother bemoans the fact that everything is different with a baby in the house. "Before you came, I owned the throne. / They trembled at my slightest moan. / I was the star, / the prize, / the king…. / But you have ruined / everything." No one even looks at him anymore—only at the baby. One particularly difficult day, the baby breaks, rips and dribbles on his brother's stuff. Brother takes it all in stride (more or less) until the baby gnaws his catcher's mitt, at which point he pitches a fit. Mom reaffirms his place in the family as a big boy, and the brother comes to realize that helping to care for and love a new baby can be fun…and maybe he won't mind sharing his crown. McPhail's charming watercolor-and-ink illustrations neatly match both the brother's mood swings and the innocence of the baby's mischievousness. Ashman's use of rhyme and humor extend the age range of the audience in both directions. A good addition to the new-sibling shelf. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2008

A little raccoon sleeps through a fierce storm in his favorite tree. The Searcher ferrets for food all night and at dawn heads back to his home in the branches of sturdy Old Tree where he comfortably settles for a day of deep sleep. While the Searcher sleeps, a coastal storm brews with blowing wind and lashing waves. As the storm builds, wind rips Old Tree's branches, bends his trunk and tries to pull out his roots. All day the storm rages, Old Tree holds fast and the Searcher sleeps on unaware. By evening, the storm retreats and the Searcher wakes up refreshed. As the Searcher climbs out of Old Tree to begin his evening forage, he's amazed to see Old Tree's broken branches and leaves lying in the wet grass. The atmospheric pen, ink and watercolor illustrations convey the storm's elemental intensity, Old Tree's gallant struggle to survive and the Searcher's total oblivion. Careful readers will discover Old Tree's anthropomorphic face protectively watching over the Searcher in this allegorical tribute to the importance of having a safe place. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
SYLVIE & TRUE by David McPhail
Released: Nov. 20, 2007

In the tradition of Frog and Toad come Sylvie, a rabbit, and True, a snake, best friends who share a city apartment. A blend of picture book and early reader, this offering contains four short chapters in which the two friends have quiet, funny adventures. Readers learn how Sylvie sleeps in a bed while True sleeps in a tub. True pretends to scare a neighbor who knows how calm she really is. When True, "a good eater," prepares a meal for Sylvie, "a good cook," it comes to naught, so naturally they go out for pizza. True always wins at bowling because of her ability to slide down the lane while keeping her shoes in place—but it doesn't matter since both enjoy themselves. As the tub fills, Sylvie reads a story and the two agree they are glad to be friends and drift off to sleep. Full of gentle warmth and humor and accompanied by McPhail's always appealing watercolors, this is a selection perfect for reading aloud and for young readers comfortable with reading on their own. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2007

McPhail's two good souls, Big Brown Bear and Rat, are down by the riverside, picnicking on cucumber sandwiches. Bear is thunderstruck to learn that it's his birthday: " ‘Really?' asked Bear. ‘How do you know?' ‘I remembered from last year,' said Rat. ‘Birthdays don't change. They are always on the same day.' ‘Amazing,' said Bear." When a rogue rowboat comes downstream, Bear and Rat hop in and start pulling upstream. A hat comes into view, drifting on the water, then a fishing pole, then a gentleman on a log—the boat's absentee owner. Bear and Rat help the man aboard, whereupon the boat makes its leisurely way to the bottom of the river. But no one's spirit does, especially after Rat gives Bear his birthday gift, which is not a boat. McPhail is on form; his story has an ingenuous, hand-holding sweetness that easily gives way to a comfortable embrace. The artwork is dreamily soft at the edges, with colors so fruity you could spread them on toast. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
WATER BOY by David McPhail
Released: April 1, 2007

In a dreamlike tale that drifts gently into magical realism, a young boy acquires unusual powers over water as he loses his fear of it. Though initially afraid even to take a bath, the lad gains confidence after hearing ocean waves singing, and discovering, among other tricks, that he can actually hold them back. For his climactic feat, he creates a special kind of water that cleans a polluted river. McPhail tells the tale in an abstracted, sometimes mildly humorous tone, and illustrates it with underlit, luminously colored scenes of a small, towheaded child with lowered eyes—generally alone and usually regarding water in some form, whether it be a drop balanced on his fingertip or an immense wave towering overhead. The environmental theme does not rest heavily on this atmospheric outing, and the boy's fear is presented in ways that allow it to stand in for almost any fear. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
WHEN SHEEP SLEEP by Laura Numeroff
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Numeroff, master of cause-and-effect, knows what happens if you give a sheep a naptime: You have to count something else! Simple rhymed text describes how a young insomniac and her teddy bear count other sleeping animals in lieu of the woolly variety. On their imaginary travels, they see a family of nuzzling deer deep in the forest, a group of cows dozing in a meadow, a pile of snoring pigs in a sty, puppies cuddled up on pillows, birds dreaming in a nest, purring kittens on a sofa, snuggling bears safe in their cave and twitching rabbits asleep in a hutch. The girl's eyes begin to get heavy, and eventually she is all tuckered out. Surrounded by so much slumber—and some of her animal friends—she drifts off to sleep herself. McPhail's warm and cozy pen-and-watercolor paintings provide the perfect touch and include inviting endpapers of snoozing sheep. A pleasant, satisfying bedtime story, just right for sending little ones off to sleep. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
SAM’S WINTER HAT by Albert Lamb
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

A young bear cub who can't keep track of his belongings is determined not to lose his new hat. Sam doesn't mean to lose his things; it just seems to happen. While playing with his best friend Billy, he gets too hot and takes off his red winter coat. Luckily, Billy finds it and delivers it to his door. It is likewise with his green fuzzy mittens; Papa finds them in the garage. When he gets a package from Grandma, he is so excited to show Billy his wonderful blue wooly hat that he takes a shortcut—and loses it. But as luck would have it, it isn't lost very long. McPhail's artwork perfectly suits the text, with soft colors, plump figures and expressive faces. Perfect for those loved ones who just can't seem to remember where they last saw. . . . Too bad everyone's not as lucky as Sam. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
BOY ON THE BRINK by David McPhail
Released: May 1, 2006

A young boy is having a great day fishing, going to the beach and to a carnival, but the elders of the family are quick to issue warnings: "Not too close," "Stay out of the caves," "Hold on tight." Once asleep that night, though, there is adventure afoot, and no overprotective grownups to throw a wrench into the works as he plays hero, ". . . and when the bed landed, it was transformed into a world of mountains and valleys, with a river that spilled into a waterfall and a vast green sea." McPhail's dreamscapes pull the neat trick of being shadowy and lustrous at the same time, and the spidery pen work populates the illustrations with things that go bump in the night. This sense of lurking danger is more often suggestive than specific, and it's an edgy pleasure to explore the art while following the boy's exciting progress. It is equally enjoyable to see how the boy's waking life has been appropriated by the dreams. These are the dreams that a young boy dreams of dreaming. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2006

McPhail can take the slenderest storyline and turn it into a wonderfully rich experience, and this is a fine example. While waiting for his oatmeal to cool and on his way back from the mailbox (dry mail in hand), Big Brown Bear discovers that his friend Rat's convertible is filled with rainwater. He dumps it out just before Rat arrives with a bucket for bailing. If only he had someplace dry to keep the car. Off they go to town, with Bear standing on the back of the car, nightshirt flapping in the wind. With very little guesswork, even the youngest readers will figure out what Big Brown Bear has in mind for Rat as he heads first to the bank and then to the hardware store. McPhail's luscious pen, ink and watercolor art furthers the sense of occasion. When Bear unveils his gift, it turns out that Rat has a little something for Bear to enjoy as well. Gift-giving and sharing the bounty—they keep the world dry and sweeten the oatmeal, as it were. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
EMMA IN CHARGE by David McPhail
Released: June 1, 2005

Emma, McPhail's delightful little bear, assumes teaching responsibilities for her three dolls, taking them through their day: breakfast, school, a doctor's appointment. Sure, this story has things to say about taking command and the importance of learning, but McPhail's knack is in the heart-gladdening touches he invests in his illustrations, artwork as fine as old china (if your china comes burnished with softened colors). The clown doll, naturally, is always clowning around in his silent way. It looks like the dolls are nodding off in math class. Are they alive? Well, sometimes, sometimes not. McPhail's not obviously showing his hand, for half the pleasure is in the mystery of it all. Imagination is a good thing to exercise, so let it run and play. That's why readers keep coming back to McPhail's books, and ever will. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
ANIMAL STACKERS by Jennifer Belle
Released: April 1, 2005

Belle essays a crossover from her adult novels with 26 haiku-like verses in which the first letter of each line spells out an animal's name: "Can't wait to be / Alone in the house. / The sofa looks comfortable." McPhail fleshes out the terse texts with rumpled scenes of large-headed, introspective-looking adults and children, often in antique costume, interacting with each member of the alphabetical menagerie. Despite a certain amount of romping, plus a Chinatown dragon's "accidentally passing / Gas as flames shoot / Out of her / Nostrils," the tone is generally tongue in cheek, making this an urbane counterpart for the corduroys and velvet dress set, to Steven Schnur's collections of seasonal acrostics. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

In this fast-paced sequel to Little Horse (2002), perilous events transport the diminutive Little Horse back to his beloved Valley of Little Horses. When a fierce storm pushes a tree onto Little Horse's tiny stable, he escapes into the big stable, where a yellow-eyed cat chases him into a mouse hole. Little Horse escapes again, only to encounter wild horses, a wild fire, and a wild bird of prey. Evading each ordeal, Little Horse perseveres, eventually stumbling upon a familiar waterfall and home. Although text and illustrations allude to Little Horse's miniature size, the story assumes readers are familiar with Little Horse. And while soft black-and-white illustrations provide snap-shot highlights of Little Horse's action-packed adventures, they are not always in sequence with the text. An easy-read chapter book of modest depth with a plucky equine hero and lots of action. (Fiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
RICK IS SICK by David McPhail
Released: April 1, 2004

Rick the bear and his pal, Jack the rabbit, star in their second emergent reader, featuring just one or two short and simple sentences per page. Rick is sick in bed and Jack tries to help by bringing hot tea and an ice pack, by sitting on Rick's tummy, and finally by curling up next to Rick for a nap. McPhail's appealing animal characters are full of expression as always, with the pair of devoted friends featured in circular watercolor-and-ink illustrations alternating with pages of text. The actual story is just 16 pages long, with the remaining pages devoted to a follow-up activity (creating a friendship award), a page of discussion questions, author biography, and two pages of information about the Green Light Readers series, including a list of titles. This format seems intended for classroom use and includes guided reading and Reading Recovery levels for teachers. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2004

In a fresh visual interpretation of this classic, McPhail infuses the text with a vitality extending and enriching the familiar lullaby. Three fishermen rabbits inhabit the magical dream-like realm, climbing aboard the wooden shoe, catching stars in nets of silver and gold, ending their journey, transported back to the world of a child ready for sleep. The luscious, luminous colors create a deep, dark night sprinkled with sparkling stars, intensifying the magic and mood, casting a drowsy calm and prelude to sleep. Blues take on a range from a dark inky sky to a delicate, translucent sea. Swooshing forms transport reader and rabbits up to the stars and finally down to the bed where a sleepy one snuggles with three tired bunnies. McPhail sets the stage for a likely bed-time ritual, replete with reciting and relishing this still-perfect poem. Absolutely lovely. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
A POT O’ GOLD by Kathleen Krull
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

This handsome edition includes over a dozen Irish stories; poetry by the likes of Allingham, Tynan, and Yeats; riddles, oaths, and curses; battle cries and blessings; ancient folk cures and recipes for Irish soda bread, stew, and marshmallow crackers. McPhail's endearing illustrations with sweet children and rotund, short adults, lovingly portray a land filled with fairies and lush landscapes. Krull offers nine sections (food, music, fairies, scholars, etc.) each introduced by a richly bordered page reminiscent of the Book of Kells. Just to make this complete, she provides extensive source notes and introductions to each of the pieces. Well-designed with wide margins, excellent paper, and large print. A real treasure. (Anthology. 5+)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

The characters from Henry Bear's Park (1976) return for a Christmas adventure that centers on a raffle to win a perfectly shaped Christmas tree. Henry wants to win the raffle; his friend Stanley the raccoon wants to buy a scraggly, inexpensive tree. Henry and Stanley spend all their funds (including their grocery money) on raffle tickets, and Henry actually holds the winning ticket, but he loses the prize tree because he's off eating doughnuts at the time of the drawing. They end up with the scrawny tree after all, given to them because no one else wants it, and the little tree looks just fine when decorated. Momma Bear brings them a basket of goodies to eat, so their holiday celebration is a simple but happy one. McPhail's charming illustrations in pen-and-ink with watercolor are filled with old-fashioned details and amusing expressions on the faces of the two best friends. The subtle message of the futility of chasing after a perfect Christmas tree has wider implications, contrasting well with the pair's firm friendship and their quiet, meaningful holiday. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

McPhail's worlds are so heartening and nourishing they might have just popped out of the kitchen stove. Big Brown Bear, as he's known, is a generous and kind ursine presence, yet one who will take no hanky-panky from Rat. Rat has his beady eye on 3B's slipper; it would make a comfy bed. Rat tries to abscond with the slipper, but 3B objects; he has 2 feet and needs 2 slippers. Then, for a touch of humor, McPhail dresses Rat as a door-to-door salesman offering free vacations, but no slippers allowed on the trip. No dice. Bears have a nose for scams. Later that day, after having filled Rat's belly with oatmeal and cream, 3B discovers a box full of forgotten stuff on his closet floor. Sure as shootin', there's an old slipper, just what the rat ordered. Caring, sharing, a little cross-species harmony—McPhail wears them all so lightly, caught with unsubtle gestures and the muted use of Old World color. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THIRSTY BABY by Catherine Ann Cullen
Released: April 1, 2003

Burnished watercolors transform a so-so story. With a wobbly line of ink, they give an offbeat interpretation to Cullen's (The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat, 2001) theme that is like a gift. For it's a fun but unexceptional member of the child-who-ate-too-much school. " ‘I'm thirsty,' said the baby, ‘and I need a drink.' " Dad delivers a bottle, but the baby says, "I'm thirsty, and I want more!" Well, Mom has run him a bath and that will do just fine. "More!" His sister takes him for a row in the pond. "He started with a sip, and the finished with a sup, / And the pond in the park, well, he drank it all up." And so goes the river he visits with his grandmother and the sea he visits with his grandfather. " ‘That's enough!' said the baby. ‘Now it's time to stop. / That's enough!' said the baby. Not another drop!' " Until bedtime, anyway. The rhyme has a tone poem's musicality and the kind of pleasing repetition that gets the toe tapping. But it's McPhail's (Sisters, 2002, etc.) art that lifts the whole production to another, comfortably seedy level, full of mud and discarded tires and old cannonballs, stranded whales and unhappy turtles and tattered Jolly Rogers. A call to row your boat upon Cullen's poem and, with a great inclusive hug, into McPhail's world. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

A mother pledges her unwavering love for her child in a simple, yet wonderfully affirming poem that covers the gamut of emotions expressed by young children. Simply wrought verses arranged in rhyming couplets encompass everything from wanton silliness to more somber moods. Baker's language is perfectly suited to the preschooler; what the verses lack in eloquence they make up for in sincerity. The giggle factor is high as Baker selects examples that are bound to tickle funny bones: "I love you when you're frisky / and standing on your head." Others are reassuring: "I love you when you're angry / and cross your arms and pout." Regardless of the actions described and the humor employed, the constancy of the mother's love is readily apparent, a message that is clearly communicated to young readers. McPhail's (Bubblegum Delicious, not reviewed, etc.) illustrations feature a pair of ruddy foxes, quaintly attired in the slightly more formal apparel of yesteryear, lending the pictures an old-fashioned feel. Jewel-colored tones invigorate crisp drawings that comically depict the young kits' antics. Baker's repetition of reassurances is bound to make any child feel cherished. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

Even when McPhail (The Teddy Bear, p. 496, etc.) is somewhat predictable, he can't seem to help but turn out a winning story; his never-failing artwork doesn't hurt either, with its fine lines, robust color, and deep narrative content. Here, in a story in chapters, he's back with one of his favorite creatures, the pig—Piggy, in this case. Piggy was the runt of the litter, but tendered into youth by the kind Mr. and Mrs. Farmer Todd. Among the gifts they bestow upon Piggy is the secret to Mrs. Farmer Todd's delicious pancakes. When a young and starving fox by the name of Fox ("The name certainly suits you," notes Mrs. Farmer Todd) is caught in the hen house, Piggy invites him in to have some pancakes. Soon, Piggy and Fox decide to open a pancake parlor in their little burg. It becomes a great hit and gives Piggy a chance to display his remarkable patience, tolerance, and loyalty: he works more like a beaver than a porker; he handles unruly customers with kindness; and he doesn't reveal the secret ingredient to the pancakes, even when offered a substantial cash bribe. Finally the day comes when he confides the secret ingredient to Fox—with Mrs. Farmer Brown's approval. You guessed it: love is the answer. But that isn't what propels this story forward, except as an aspect of Piggy's general deportment; the secret ingredient is McPhail's terrific way with words—"But Piggy and Fox were young and strong, and the hard work agreed with them"—and his ability to craft affecting, soulful characters. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE TEDDY BEAR by David McPhail
Released: May 1, 2001

Lost and found and lost and returned—this teddy brings a lot of happiness and leaves sadness in its wake, but McPhail's (Mud Is Cake, p. 425, etc.) tale turns on the perceptiveness and sensitivity of a young boy. That young lad had a teddy bear, his favorite toy of all, and he and the teddy lived in a warm and protective home (gorgeously drawn in hearty and touching watercolor and ink). The teddy is lost in a moment of forgetfulness and is found by a homeless man who tucks the bear away in his pocket. Gradually, the boy adjusts to not having his bear and gradually, the bear adjusts to his new circumstances. The man takes the bear everywhere, just like the boy once did. On a spring day, the man put the bear on a park bench while he did some scavenging nearby, and the boy and his parents happen past. The boy is exultant (his parents are nonplused), and he sweeps the bear up and walks away with him. Then he hears a mournful howl. It is the homeless man, a man who has lost his best friend. The boy returns to the man, aware of what has happened: " ‘Is this your bear?' the little boy asked. . . . ‘Thank you,' he said to the little boy. ‘I don't know what I'd do without him.' ‘I know what you mean,' said the little boy.' " Although this is a story about kindness, love, and compassion, it is also a worthy reminder that the down-and-out have feelings and needs just as keen as the reader's. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2001

Using underlighting and close shadows to give the art an air of fire-lit mystery, McPhail strands the bookish protagonist of, most recently, Edward and the Pirates (1997) in Tarzan territory, where he's rescued from a crocodile by the Lord of the Jungle himself. After other encounters with wild animals, Edward in turn rescues the croc from a pair of collectors, then the adventure draws to a close when Tarzan's yell turns into Edward's dad calling him home for dinner. Children with a taste for danger will be happy to follow Edward wherever his reading takes him, or to take the hint and get lost in their own favorite stories. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
LITTLE HORSE by Betsy Byars
Released: April 1, 2001

A satisfying horse story with a new twist. Little Horse lives in a remote valley with his family and other horses. One day, he strays from the protection of his family, takes a drink from the river, and is carried far away from his safe valley. Disaster after disaster meets Little Horse, but he relies upon luck and his wits to survive. The story's surprising twist comes when the reader realizes that Little Horse really is little. Little enough for the flowers to look like trees. Little enough for a hawk to try to pick him up. This unexpected detail separates Little Horse from many beginning chapter books. When Little Horse meets humans for the first time, he is terrified by their size and then comforted by their care. McPhail's (Mud Is Cake, below, etc.) warm pencil illustrations add excitement and understanding to each page. McPhail can make Little Horse look lonely or terrified or comforted. Though the word choice, fast pace, and predictable adventures are perfect for the child who is ready to move beyond easy reading books, the story line provides fantastical and philosophical questions often lacking in books for children of this age. (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
MUD IS CAKE by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Released: April 1, 2001

Richly colored, fanciful illustrations imbue Ryan's (Mice and Beans, 2001, etc.) simple yet imaginative verse with all of the humor, wonder, and faith necessary for a phenomenal daydream in which anything is possible. Even before a word of the story appears, the brown-ink, bamboo-reed pen and watercolor illustrations on the title and half-title pages set the scene for the upcoming adventures. A woman reads to children in a big chair, surrounded by stuffed animals and a real dog; the children dig in the mud outside the house, with the dog licking at the puddle and the stuffed animals arrayed on the stoop. Once the verse begins, children, dog, and now life-sized stuffed animals are off on fantastical escapades featuring such transformed everyday things as a porch-turned-stage, a stick-turned-wand, a tree-turned-spaceship, tub-turned-boat, and the best and truest of all: a book-turned-door. The litany of favorite childhood imaginings, finishing with the exhilarating idea that "You can be most anything in dreams, or wide-awake. If you agree that juice is tea . . . if you believe that mud is cake," combined with McPhail's (Edward in the Jungle, p. 340, etc.) enthralling illustrations gives this work the makings of a future classic. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
JACK AND RICK by David McPhail
Released: March 1, 2001

No one can beat McPhail (I Love You Because You're You, 2001, etc.) at illustrations of bears, and Rick the bear joins a long list of the artist's ursine charmers who can't fail to win over young readers. In this emergent-level easy reader, Rick meets a rabbit named Jack, but unfortunately, Rick and Jack are on opposite sides of the river. The two characters use a hollow log and Rick's jump-rope to explore the concept of cooperation, helping each other in simple but creative ways until they can join together on the same bank of the river to jump rope side by side. The text uses a question-and-answer format and just one simple sentence per page to tell the short but satisfying story, which has a real plot and real obstacles for the characters to overcome, despite the length. McPhail's delicately shaded watercolor illustrations show rotund Rick in an orange vest and jaunty Jack in a polka-dot neckerchief, with some hilarious expressions on the animals' faces as they struggle with the heavy log. Children who are just learning to sound out basic vocabulary will enjoy this amusing tale, one of several that McPhail has created for the Green Light easy reader series. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >
TWILIGHT by Holly Huth
by Holly Huth, illustrated by David McPhail
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

In a charming fantasy that burnishes the New York cityscape with an affectionate glow, a little girl and her mom walk along the avenue. The child, clearly loving the taste of the word in her mouth, says, "It's twilight" over and over to the folks they pass: a storekeeper, a couple in love. As the keeper of twilight, the girl flies to the "place that lived after the sun and before the moon" beyond the Chrysler Building, where she shines up a few cherubic-faced stars, reads the sun a bedtime story, and scolds an owl for opening an eye too soon. She encourages the sweet-faced crescent moon to rise over the Statue of Liberty, and then returns to her mother's side, taking her hand, for now it's nighttime, and "She wasn't in charge of that." The watercolor-and-ink paintings indeed have the tender dimness of what the French call l'heure bleu. McPhail makes a seamless transition from the streets and sidewalks to mystical aerial views wherein the girl soars with a flock of pelicans over the Brooklyn Bridge and even hushes a pack of coyotes in the russet desert on her twilight run. The language is expressive but never mushy, and sure to delight. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2000

McPhail, master of bear stories, tells what could be his own in this gentle urging to be true to one's calling. Told in the first person, this life of a gentle bear starts when he is only a cub learning all he can from his mother, but inspired to scratch simple claw marks on the floor of his cave. Eventually, these marks become more accomplished drawings and eventually, the bear actually earns awards and honors for his art. Throughout the little history, important lessons are offered. "As I copied, I discovered things that made my own drawings even better . . . but I always found time to do at least one drawing." And finally, "If you love to draw and you'd rather spend your time drawing than doing just about anything else, I'd say you're well on your way." The low-key but powerful message of personal affirmation that runs throughout is one all parents will welcome and all children appreciate. (Don't miss the drawing lessons on the endpapers, either.) (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
BIG BROWN BEAR by David McPhail
Released: March 1, 1999

Big Brown Bear, with a natty bowler hat, is all set to paint the house in this cheerful Level 1 reader. Every page presents a full-color scene and a few words of easily predicted, often rhyming text: "Bear is big. Bear is brown. Bear goes up. He comes down." Big Bear climbs a ladder with a pail of blue paint, while nearby, Little Bear plays with a ball and bat—"Oh no! Little Bear! Do not do that!" These are simple words, but sometimes challenging ones, e.g., there are two uses of up, as in climbing the ladder and washing up. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations provide nearly ideal context, while also amplifying the story. The format is attractive and practical, featuring large type on a white background that is placed for easy reading. Beginning readers will be amused by the gentle humor in the book, and feel accomplished to have tackled it themselves. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
MOLE MUSIC by David McPhail
Released: March 1, 1999

Music has the capacity to make friends of enemies, in this quiet study of one introverted fellow: Mole. Mole spends his days alone in his underground hovel, until one night while eating supper in front of the television, he hears the sweet sound of a violin. "I want to make beautiful music, too," Mole claims, then sends away for a violin of his own. One note leads to another, and his music goes from screeching to symphonic. Unbeknownst to him, his years of underground practice have overarching effects, seen by readers only in the illustrations. Lilting strains of music attract birds, farmers, presidents, and queens. Mole's subterranean world, a realm of permanent night, is softly lit by glowing umber, while outside, fighting armies lay down their arms as the music plays on. With endearing characterizations stylistically akin to Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, the beloved Mole will easily win the affections of readers and inspire young hopes for a better world. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1998

Whimsical, fantastical—and even a little silly—this nighttime story from McPhail (The Puddle, p. 58, etc.) has plenty of child appeal. One night, Tinker and his bear, Tom, are gazing out the window instead of sleeping. A streak of light in the sky turns into a rocket ship crash-landing in their backyard, with a star baby inside. Tinker figures they need to get the dents out of the ship, refuel, and send the star baby back to its mother; Tom is quite taken with the little sprite and wants to keep it. Star Baby eats the cat's food and sends the cat, the cereal, and later, Tinker's dad, flying (gently) through the air; Tinker and Tom fill the rocket with odds and ends from the refrigerator and send Star Baby off, as is right. The rather surreal elements of the story are held in check by the reassuringly familiar surroundings: Boy and bear pad around the cozy kitchen, the garage sports a basketball hoop, five-pointed stars appear in the sky, a night light is on the stove, and cheese and carrots are in the fridge. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE PUDDLE by David McPhail
Released: March 20, 1998

From McPhail (Edward and the Pirates, 1997, etc.), a tale that demonstrates that rainy days provide lots of interesting possibilities, at least for the boy who lives in a world where alligators visit puddles, and elephants drain them dry. ``It was a rainy day. I asked my mom if I could go out and sail my boat in the puddles,'' says the young narrator. She agrees, cautioning him to stay out of the puddles. He finds a nice specimen and launches his sailboat. A frog commandeers the craft and sails to the middle of the puddle. Vexed, but knowing he mustn't wade through the water, the boy glowers from the shore. An alligator offers help and manages to cripple the boat during the rescue. A pig then splashes the boy, an elephant comes for a drink and the next thing readers know the sun is coming out. Everyone leaves, including the boy, who heads home to a less public venue for sailing his boat: the bathtub. In watercolor illustrations that make plain how real the boy's imaginings are to him, McPhail nimbly weds the simple pleasure of being out in the rain with a light adventure. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

Edward, who learned to read under emergency circumstances in Santa's Book of Names (1993), reads everything now: cereal boxes, mail-order catalogs, and every book he can get his hands on, especially adventure stories. An old book about undiscovered pirate treasure that he finds in a dusty recess of his public library attracts a band of shadowy buccaneers; they materialize in Edward's bedroom one night and demand the book, believing it will guide them to their lost hoard. Edward, good library patron that he is, refuses to hand it over: ``It's checked out on my library card- -you'll have to wait till I return it.'' The pirates bluster and threaten, Edward's parents ride in for the rescue as Joan of Arc and Robin Hood, but all is resolved peacefully when Edward discovers that the pirates can't read and offers to read to them. This is a wonderful adventure on the high seas of a child's imagination, with an accomplished pen-and-ink artist showing himself equally proficient in chiaroscuro in deep-toned, textured acrylics. Edward and his large, faithful teddy are irresistible and are scheduled to return, if the book's last sentence is any indication: ``Some pirate treasure has never been found. . . .'' (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THOSE CAN-DO PIGS by David McPhail
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

There's not much Can-Do Pigs can't do. The multitude of things at which they are experts (or just expertly enthusiastic) is described in this collection of light verses by McPhail (Pigs Ahoy!, 1995, etc.). These versatile porkers fly, make repairs, rocket to the moon and back, and play bongos with a brick. They're not fans of war, preferring to tickle generals rather than to fight them, and only one pig's can-can abilities are interrupted by a fall down the stairs. Otherwise, Can-Do Pigs never seem to quit. They're eager to go rodeo riding, tree climbing, or camping out under the stars. They are, of course, the best of friends. These pig tales read like a cumulative story-hour poem, where children and storyteller come up with activities they enjoy and add verses on the spot, putting the pigs through the motions. The frolics depicted in McPhail's watercolors, combined with the bucolic ramblings of verse, make the book a very entertaining read. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1996

Familiar lullabies are given a twist by McMullan (Hey, Pipsqueak!, 1995, etc.) in a work that serves as a missing link between board books and more lavish picture books. A bunny, a bear cub, a kitten, a duckling, and a puppy are given a few pages each to be gathered in by their mothers as the day comes to a close, then sung to sleep. Bear whuffles a ``Sleep, Baby, Sleep'' variation, Rabbit warbles her version of ``Hush, Little Baby,'' and so on. It's all very sweet: ``Dearest duckling, close your eyes, crickets chirp your lullabies'' to the tune of ``Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'' and ``Dream time, my kitten'' to the melody of ``Rock-a-Bye Baby.'' McPhail adds notes of suspense with bolts of lightning and sickle moons. The book begins with ``If you were my bunny and I were your mama, I'd pick you out from all the other bunnies and nestle you beside me''; fittingly, therefore, the volume is dedicated in part to ``M.W.B.'' (Picture book. 2-4) Read full book review >
PIGS AHOY! by David McPhail
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Compact couplets about pigs who wreak havoc, Ö la the Marx Brothers, aboard a ship. The human narrator goes on a cruise and finds himself bunking with a bunch of variously attired pigs. Somehow, he ends up feeling (and looking) responsible for their mischief: playing baseball with food, staging naval battles in the pool, painting the pipes in the engine room, and tearing the lounge singer's dress. When they are forcibly removed from the ship, the narrator misses them—the ship's a bore without them. Happily, the pigs are waiting for him when he gets home. McPhail (Santa's Book of Names, 1993, etc.) creates a colorful, detailed backdrop for the events; the pictures are frantic and the rhymes are funny and restrained. A well-balanced production of humorous high jinks on the high seas. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Wells (Lucy Comes to Stay, p. 853, etc.) and McPhail combine on four evocations—waking, night, in the kitchen, a winter walk- -each of which is sometimes startlingly bang-on and, at other times, reaches way too far. Wells has a gentle, lilting style that can be sweet, but is prey to going sticky: A dog's belly is ``softer than sleep''; a chocolate sauce ``sounds sleepy.'' Then she will summon a winter day with real flair—donning a wool sweater, holding a sharp icicle, exploring the dark pine woods; you can feel the bite of cold. Truly extraordinary, allowing even the textual excesses a reprieve, are McPhail's paintings—moody, atmospheric concoctions with brush strokes laid on like thatchwork, lightened here and there by an acrylic flash of brightness. It is a mystery why the schlock was allowed to mingle with all the good stuff this book has to offer. (Fiction/Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

When Edward has trouble learning to read, his teacher urges tests but his mother counsels ``Patience.'' Then, in Edward's house on Christmas Eve, Santa accidentally drops the all- important book listing the gifts children will receive—and when Edward catches up with him to give it back, Santa invites him to come along to help. Since Edward can't read, he just holds the book and turns pages. But when Santa's glasses tumble into the sea, Edward realizes he must try to read—and finds he can. Appropriately, the last gift is a book for Edward, which he reads all by himself on Christmas morning. The novel twist on the popular scenario makes a sweet story that's sure to be a hit, especially with McPhail's cozy illustrations of Edward's home and a traditional Santa. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1993

The narrator—rendered in McPhail's trademark style as an appealing, vulnerable man—is peacefully reading when his home is invaded by pigs: ``Pigs in tutus,/Pigs in kilts,/Pigs on skateboards,/Pigs on stilts./Pigs from England,/Pigs from France,/Pigs in just/Their underpants.'' Coming by a fantastical variety of transport (e.g., a parachute, and the mammoth ship ``S. S. Swine''), the motley crowd gets right down to the business of gorging on a giant stack of pizzas, which they chomp, play with, and fling about but don't share with the narrator (``I get nothing,/Just the bill''). Summoning his confidence, their unwilling host cries, ``Get out''—whereupon the pigs affectionately beg forgiveness, clean up, and crowd cozily into his bed. The deftly phrased verse and the pigs' shenanigans and outlandish costumes are pretty funny; the similarity to The Cat in the Hat is obvious, but probably only adults will see the parallel with teenagers (or adult children living with their parents). Kids can just revel in the mayhem, which is truly ``galore.'' (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

A gifted Canadian presents a charming collection of accessible, lighthearted verse, heralding its multicultural spirit in his cheerful title poem (``Oh, the kids around the block are like an/Ice cream store,/'Cause there's chocolate, and vanilla,/And there's maple and there's more...''). Lee's lilting, upbeat voice is uniquely his, but his sly updating of the patterns, topics, and even the words of some hoary greats is a beguiling extra dimension here. There's an echo of Lear in a nonsense poem about Martians; an inspired use of grand place names, worthy of Kipling; deft versifying and a childlike imagination recalling Milne; and an implicit rebuke for the condescension of Stevenson's ``Little Indian, Sioux or Crow...'' throughout. In several entries, Lee effectively mimics children's folk rhymes; there are also lovely lyrical passages, a delightfully garbled ``Happy Earthday!'' (``So I gapped a little rift,/Yes I lipped a riddle gaffe...''), and plenty of contemporary references. Set on generous white space, McPhail's illustrations extend the meaning with imagination and humor. In his usual style, bears and pigs are especially appealing, cats oddly awkward, and humans—wistful or comical—pay admiring tribute to Sendak. An excellent contribution. (Poetry. 3-9) Read full book review >
FARM BOY'S YEAR by David McPhail
Released: March 31, 1992

A diary-style text plus a drawing and a luminous painting for each month a century ago in coastal Newburyport, Massachusetts. Ice-cutting, the last day of school, haying, apple-picking, etc., are briefly touched on in an attempt to give the flavor of another era. But there are numerous minor inaccuracies and implausibilities: making 23 gallons of maple syrup in a single day with the equipment shown is a tall-tale feat; a boy wouldn't have been likely to help his mother bake bread, or to have his stomach turned cleaning fish he had competently caught. In the art, this ``twelve-year-old's'' proportions are those of a child of six, while his height suggests a maximum of eight. Too little plot to make a story, and too careless in detail for informational value. Popular though McPhail may be, how could a responsible editor pass along this thoughtless nostalgia? (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
ANNIE & CO. by David McPhail
Released: April 30, 1991

Annie (6) is so good at fixing things that her father gives her a tool chest; with her pony cart as a fix-it shop, she goes out into the world, where she finds plenty to do: removing a mouse from a cello so that it plays sweetly again; bandaging a goose's broken wing; even, as ``captain'' of her cart, marrying a couple. Once all the many details are neatly woven together, Annie lets the pony take her home. Whimsical but sweet; the quiet mood is nicely supported by the illustrations' aura of tender concern. (Fiction/Young reader. 6-9) Read full book review >