Books by Dori Chaconas

MERRY MERRY HOLLY HOLLY by Dori Chaconas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 20, 2015

"A quiet, satisfying story about a charming pair of friends celebrating their affectionate bond. (Picture book. 3-5)"
The stars of a popular early-reader series move on to the picture-book world in this gentle story about finding a Christmas tree. Read full book review >
HURRY DOWN TO DERRY FAIR by Dori Chaconas
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2011

Just how long can it take to get ready to go to the fair? Some stories need to be set to music. The plot of this picture book is simple enough: A boy wants to go to the fair, but his family isn't ready. There are pies to be baked and animals to be brushed. But this book's really all about the rhymes. Many classic children's books have succeeded entirely on a bouncy rhythm and a handful of clever rhymes, but the words here don't bounce. The scansion seems, just faintly, wrong: "Hurry, Mama! Please, let's go! / Let's go to Derry Fair! / I want to ride the giant swing / That flies high / in the air!" A clever musician, with a little time, could make them catchy. For readers without time or the ability to improvise tunes, the real joy is in Tyler's hide-and-seek illustrations. The watercolor-and-ink images are rendered in muted greens and browns, like spring, and they contain every toy or pet a preschooler might want. Children reading the book on their parents' laps will search each page and say, "There's a sheep! There's a duck! There's a hot-air balloon!" Even the homely interiors and details will fascinate. These pictures are more likely to stick in their heads than any of the couplets. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE SWIMMING LESSON by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 22, 2011

"This swimming lesson will make learning to read a pleasure. (Early reader. 6-8)"
Possum Fuzz and muskrat Cork are at odds over Fuzz's reluctance to visit Cork's house "in the middle of a pond" in this early-reader series entry. Read full book review >
DON'T SLAM THE DOOR! by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

This cause-and-effect tale with a catchy rhythm begins with a green-eyed, red-pig-tailed girl shouting: "Please don't slam the door! / Don't slam that old screen door! / A slamming door will wake the cat, / and heaven knows, we don't want that, / so please don't slam that door!" Of course, the hound dog does let the screen door slam, and the cat, unceremoniously awakened, wreaks havoc on Ma's yarn. Ma knits the tangled yarn into socks for Pa, who, disturbed by their lumpiness, bumps the bees. The chaos continues to spread, despite the girl's best efforts to rein it in, until the house is filled with frenzied animals. She shoos them all away with a stern warning NOT to slam the door on their way out! Hillenbrand's charming mixed-media illustrations place just the right amount of surprise and chagrin on the characters' faces and greatly add to the fun. The climactic spread, in which the little girl gives everyone from bees and bear to cows and cat what-for, is a marvel of composition. Begs to be read aloud one-on-one and shared in a storytime setting. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
MOUSIE LOVE by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2009

A lovesick mousie woos his sweetheart in this twist on the proverbial cat-and-mouse game. When the cat chases Tully under the pantry door, he sees Frill in the flour bin and instantly falls in love. He immediately proposes, but before she can reply, the cat chases them under the kitchen stove, which becomes their warm, cozy home. As Tully and Frill dream of their future, Tully repeats his proposal, but Frill never has a chance to reply, with the cat always on their heels. Finally, one starry night, the cat has a small accident and Frill gives Tully her answer. Masse's bright, cheerful acrylic-and-gel illustrations complement the text with close-ups of the smitten Tully in his jaunty troubadour pants and jacket courting a demure Frill in her flouncy skirt on the pantry shelf, under the kitchen stove and on the rooftop beneath the stars. Courtship vignettes alternate with humorous, action-packed chase scenes from a mouse-eye perspective. Mousie love triumphs through adversity in this fetching little romance. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
CORK & FUZZ by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2009

Cork the muskrat loves to find things like feathers and smooth sticks, while Fuzz the opossum likes to keep things like food in his mouth. These best friends, adorably drawn by McCue in ink and watercolor, come into mild conflict when Cork loses his best green stone and Fuzz finds it, chanting, "Finders keepers." Fuzz also finds a wiggling hump of fallen leaves. As the story progresses it becomes evident that Fuzz is not the brighter of the two: "Should I hit it?" he asks, brandishing a stick. Soon enough they discover a hidden chipmunk within the leaves, who enjoys playing his own game of finders keepers. Fifth in the series, this simple, sweet tale offers a lesson, wisely pronounced by Cork: "Sometimes we cannot keep the things we find." It's clear from these pals that true friendship can withstand all sorts of mishaps. This Level 3 in the Viking Easy-To-Read program offers a touch more in linguistic sophistication than the venerable Frog and Toad but definitely partakes of that timeless sensibility. (Early reader. 6-8)Read full book review >
CORK AND FUZZ by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2008

Cork, the short muskrat who collects shiny stones, and Fuzz, the tall possum who collects, well, most things, including feathers, return in a fourth easy reader. Their slightly rivalrous friendship—they spar a bit over the sizes and types of their collections—is further tested when they encounter some "green stones" near a pond. Owing to a feather wrapped in Fuzz's tail, five hatching ducklings bond with the possum, and their returning mother duck "collects" him while hustling her brood back to the nest. After Cork finds a way to liberate Fuzz, the pair runs, flaps and quacks, "collecting laughs all the way home." McCue's charming pictures couple pastoral blues and greens of pond and meadow with wiry and shiny textures for Cork and Fuzz's fur and tails. While plotting is slightly thinner than in previous outings, Chaconas has fun with the friends' confusion as the busy ducklings overrun their nest. A welcome addition to a sweet, funny series. (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
PENNIES IN A JAR by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Parallels to current events, including parents with military duty and gasoline availability, make this story of a boy growing up during World War II extra-accessible. In a time when horse-drawn conveyances share suburban streets with automobiles, a young boy painstakingly puts aside pennies in a green glass jar, saving to buy his serviceman dad a special birthday gift. Dad isn't the boy's only worry: He is painfully afraid of the enormous, stinky street horses that pull the milk cart, the garbage wagon and the rag-and-newspaper-collector's cart. If he can't face this fear, how can he possibly take care of things until dad gets home? A photographer's pony is a problem of more manageable size, and the boy gathers all his courage and most of his hard-won 56 cents to make an important present of proof of his bravery for dad. Text and art are well-matched here. Chaconas's narrative hits the right notes, and Lewin's shimmering watercolors are sun-splashed and copper-kissed, with studies in scale allowing the reader to get a real sense of the child's perspective. A fine, illustrated author's note explains how those who stayed at home during World War II worked together to support their loved ones overseas. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
VIRGINNIE’S HAT by Dori Chaconas
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2007

Illustrations outshine text in this tale of thwarted predation. When Virginnie loses her hat to a gust of wind, it gets stuck in a tree, much to its owner's frustration. She takes off one boot, then the other, to throw them into the tree and dislodge the hat. Unbeknownst to Virginnie, however, first a crayfish, then a snake, then an alligator each decide to snack on her toes, only to be driven off when an airborne boot comes crashing down on them. The conceit is quite clever, and the illustrations are divine: Meade's watercolor collage images make the most of the liquid nature of the medium, the blurring colors evoking the swamp with mastery, and Virginnie (and her toes) rendered to exude vigor and personality. Chaconas's faux-folksy verse text, however, strains at times to maintain scansion and rhyme, resulting in an awkward read-aloud that does not do justice either to story or to illustrations. Countrified expressions—"yee-haw!" and elided g's at the ends of most, but not all, participles—seem artificially imposed rather than rising naturally from the text. A cryin' shame. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
CORIANDER THE CONTRARY HEN by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2007

A hardheaded hen plumps down in the middle of the road and brings traffic to a screeching halt in this rhythmic rural ruckus. Thoroughly used to doing just what she's told not to, Coriander settles in on a pile of grass with a "Coop and Garden" magazine—which, in the cartoon illustrations, is joined by a dish of candy, an umbrella, sunscreen, a radio and other leisure gear as the tale goes on—and despite plenty of scolding, refuses to give way as trucks, cars and even a school bus pile up. Featuring as a crowd-pleasing refrain variations on "With a ruffle of her feathers / and a sharp look in her eye, / Coriander cackled a discourteous reply, / CLUCK CLUCK TRUCK!," Chaconas' text is paired to hilarious views of a small hen with a big red comb and an even bigger attitude. Ultimately persuaded by a bit of reverse psychology from a canny lass ("Do NOT get out of the road"), Coriander finally swaggers back to the henhouse to roust out its occupants and construct a cushy new nest. Admirers of Anita Jeram's Contrary Mary (1995) will find Coriander an even tougher bird. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
DANCING WITH KATYA by Dori Chaconas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

When her younger sister contracts polio, a farm girl finds a way to bring wonder and joy back into her life. Anna and her sister Katya have always loved to dance together, pretending to be ballerinas. After five-year-old Katya suffers from polio, her legs remain so weak and crooked she can barely walk with crutches. Anna promises Katya she will dance again, but wonders if Katya will even be able to walk. Anna is hopeful when Mama takes Katya to specialists in Minneapolis. Katya returns home walking, but she must wear heavy metal braces to support her legs. A depressed Katya tells Anna she will never be able to dance in her ugly braces. Anna, however, manages to erase Katya's sadness and help her dance in her own special way. Lovely realistic watercolors capture the look and feel of early 20th-century Midwestern farm life, as well as the mood and spirit of the two sisters. A warm and inspiring tribute to one sister's love and the other's courage. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
CORK AND FUZZ by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2006

In this delightful second installment, Cork the muskrat and Fuzz the possum struggle to resolve differences that jeopardize their friendship. Cork, who is older, notices that Fuzz is taller. In the duo's childlike estimation, older equals taller—it's simply a rule. Comical attempts to make Fuzz shorter, then Cork, taller, convey just the right mix of earnest endeavor and endearingly silly misapprehension. Chaconas's text and characterizations hearken back to the best of Harper's I Can Read program, evoking in particular the measured dialogue and sweet illogic of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad. In turn, McCue's ink-and-watercolor illustrations pay tribute to Garth Williams, even as they offer up a pleasingly fresh color palette and singularly apt depictions of two hairy pals from toe to tail. This laugh-out-loud treat never falls short. (Easy reader. 5-8)Read full book review >
WHEN COWS COME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Three amiable bovine sisters always hoof it back to the ranch each year for the holidays, only this year they have a little problem. One sister, Moosha from New York, was having such a good time dancing the Cowpoke Polka that she crashed through the floor with both back legs, right up to the hem of her bright pink dress. Moosha is stuck in the corner where the Christmas tree was to be set up, and the relatives couldn't free her, even with Pa's tractor. But these cows, like all farm folk, are an inventive bunch, so they decide to decorate Moosha as the Christmas tree, starting a new family tradition. The rollicking, rhyming text is full of fun and drama, but it's Chapman's illustrations that make the cows come to life with humorous expressions and outfits. Her cows all have their own personalities, right down to little cousin Dale, who hangs a golden star on Moosha's tail and solves the family's dilemma. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
CHRISTMAS MOUSELING by Dori Chaconas
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

A mother's tender love and concern for her newborn is the theme of this sweet Christmas story with a well-written, traditional structure and inventive illustrations. As Mother Mouse carries her newborn mouseling through the snow-covered fields searching for a safe haven, she meets several animals: a sheep, a dove and a cow. Each one offers its home to the mice, because the animals are leaving "to see a king." A repeated refrain of blowing wind, flying snow and sneezing mouseling causes each borrowed home to blow apart, so the two mice eventually follow the other animals toward the star and the stable. There they borrow a corner of the Christ Child's blanket and receive a kind word from another mother with a newborn. Hartung's illustrations provide a properly appealing Mother Mouse, who carries her baby out into the world in a sling made of a seed pod. Many pages use large snowflakes layered over the panoramic views, and the repeated refrain is creatively incorporated within the illustrations along pastel blue swirls to indicate the whirling winter winds. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
CORK & FUZZ by Dori Chaconas
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2005

In this droll take on the evergreen theme of unlikely friendships, a small, lonely muskrat and a newly met, considerably larger possum search gamely for common ground. At first, it doesn't look good: Cork loves water and veggies, while Fuzz is into bugs and dry land; Fuzz gives Cork a scare by playing dead, then inadvertently sticks him with a thorn during an attempted game of pin-the-tail-on-the-turtle. Frizzed-up appealingly in McCue's finely inked natural scenes, the two make expressive, recognizably childlike figures that will have young readers rooting for them to find a way—as indeed they do, after discovering a mutual love for collecting interesting pebbles. The comical contrast between Cork's steady seriousness and Fuzz's daffy streak—" ‘Are you a duck?' Fuzz asked. ‘Ducks go cork! cork!' ‘Ducks do not go cork! cork!' Cork said. ‘Ducks go quack! quack!' "—adds even more animation to this budding friendship. Readers will hope for sequels. (Easy reader. 5-7)Read full book review >