Books by Erik Blegvad

KITTY AND MR. KIPLING by Lenore Blegvad
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

Writer Rudyard Kipling's ill-fated attempt to settle down in his American wife's small Vermont town gets a worshipful once-over through the eyes of (fictional) young Mary Sadie—dubbed "Kitty" by her father after the cat killed by curiosity. It's an appropriate moniker, as Kitty is forever asking questions of her parents and other grownups—a device the author leans on heavily to describe and to explain events that take place, largely, offstage. Kipling's efforts to help out a ne'er-do-well brother-in-law end in criminal charges and ultimately drive the writer back to England. Before he goes, though, he makes a big impression on Kitty, as a sensitive observer with his own bottomless well of curiosity: "Nothing," she writes, "was just ordinary to Mr. Kipling." Occasional ink drawings place dignified characters in peaceful rural settings. Though weighed down by an excess of historical detail (not to mention a substantial afterword and bibliography), the tale does bring this great writer closer to his modern audience of Best Beloveds, without idealizing either the man or his now-offensive politics. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

"The Ugly Duckling" was the story of Andersen's life. Unattractive as a boy and subjected to teasing and taunting, he grew up to be a fabulously accomplished writer, courted by royalty and befriended by literary luminaries of his time. "First you have a terribly hard time, and then you become famous," he said. This volume, a fitting celebration of the bicentennial of Andersen's birth, is a perfect match of evocative, poetic text and sumptuous watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations. Brief chapters, each page with an illustration, illustrate pivotal moments in the author's life. The text ends as Andersen leaves Odense, Denmark, for Copenhagen, the end of one story of his life and the beginning of another. This will be a natural for reading aloud when introducing children to his stories. A perfect gem. (afterword, bibliography, illustrator's note) (Nonfiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
SEA CLOCKS by Louise Borden
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

Writing in blank verse for no discernible reason, Borden profiles John Harrison, monomaniacal inventor of a "chronometer" that revolutionized navigation at sea. It's a grand tale of lifelong dedication and justice delayed but done at last (there was a huge public award involved)—but it's just been told for the same audience in Kathryn Lasky's distinguished Man Who Made Time Travel, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (p. 535). Hawkes's illustrations are broad, colorful, and sometimes comic, whereas Blegvad's are more delicate, depicting harbor scenes, ornate clocks, and small figures in 18th-century dress, in a medley of fine-lined ink drawings and muted color. It's a story worth telling, but because the two renditions cover largely the same territory, consider this one worthy, but not essential. (afterword) (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
SEASONS by Charlotte Zolotow
Released: March 1, 2002

Two venerable contributors have teamed up to make a small collection of poetry for beginning readers. The I Can Read series has usually produced fine volumes that new young readers can actually read themselves; this has the added attraction of introducing various kinds of verse forms, both rhymed and unrhymed, in very short bursts. The contents are divided by season: Eleven poems each for "Winter Bits" and "Spring Things" and nine poems each for "Summer Thoughts" and "The Feel of Fall." Not all are completely successful, but most capture that essence of perception that is good poetry. "The crickets / fill the night / with their voices— / It is like / a message / in another language / spoken to a part / of me / who hasn't / happened yet." That's "The Crickets" in its entirety. Although the city is mentioned in some verses, the imagery is decidedly rural if not downright rustic, with wooden fences, dirt roads, and meadows in evidence. Children wear helmets to ride their bikes, and carry backpacks, but the pictures are timeless, if in country mode. Blegvad (First Friends, not reviewed, etc.) is a master of the vibrant line and telling detail—every leaf blows in the wind just so; every child has his or her own specific energy or repose. A small delight. (Poetry. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Pity poor Mary, whose frenzied efforts to prepare for the onslaught of winter leave her red-faced and exhausted! Short rhyming couplets speed readers from page to page as Mary's husband issues imperious commands from the comfort of his rocking chair. Faster and faster she works_digging, cooking, churning, canning, and preserving. Accompanied by a small black cat she races frantically from one task to another, indoors, outdoors, upstairs, and down, until her patience wears out and the inevitable occurs. Blegvad's detailed watercolor drawings of Mary's hard work and her increasingly frazzled appearance in the face of her husband's idleness will delight children, whose sense of poetic justice will be grandly satisfied on the final page. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
A SOUND OF LEAVES by Lenore Blegvad
Released: May 1, 1996

A moody, bittersweet novella about the difficulties of Sylvie's family in their first outing away from the city, to a cousin's vacant house at the beach. For Sylvie and her brother, Dell, it is strange to be anywhere other than in their apartment, especially without her father, who has to work that week. None of them is familiar with the country—with trees, a backyard that is creepy and overgrown, picnics—and Sylvie's mother is injured on the first day. Those troubles pale, though, when Sylvie is dismissed by the local children as ``some little slum kid.'' The crux of this gentle story, told from Sylvie's naive perspective, is not her defiance of prejudice, but her recognition that she would have likely behaved the same way if the situation were reversed. Blegvad (Anna Banana and Me, 1985, etc.) has created an offbeat, lyrical story—with little action and a mild resolution—that will need a little booktalking to find its audience. The understated message, however, that prejudice is seldom solely the province of the hateful, is well worth the effort. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 8-11) Read full book review >
WITH ONE WHITE WING by Elizabeth Spires
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

The answers to Spires's poetic puzzlesone riddle per pageare easy to guess, but there's still a lot to linger over and reflect on in this quietly humorous collection. ``When you leave I get bored/and pretend I'm a room,'' says the mirror; the candle's ``life is as long as an evening''; trees ``have black bones and pale green flesh'' and a starfish can ``never see what I am named after.'' There's an egg that's hardboiled about being ``cracked and beaten'' and a mosquito whose buzz is not worse than his bite. Blegvad's gentle watercolors plant clues and false leads with a light touch. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
TWELVE TALES by Hans Christian Andersen
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

This collection is intelligently translated by a Dane whose grandfather once saw Andersen in the street. Throughout, Andersen's pixie-ish sense of humor remains intact. But while Blegvad's (The Three Little Pigs, 1980, etc.) highly detailed illustrations are deft, they are too small, and too cartoon-like, to fully complement the passionate Andersen. When the tin soldier is thrown in the oven (unsure whether the heat is ``caused by the fire or by love'') and realizes that he is melting but holds himself erect because the little dancer is watching—one of the world's great love stories is coming to a ten-hankie end. But in the tiny illustration our hero is just a blurry figure surrounded by sketchy flames. The whimsical pictures do well by the more humorous fables, such as ``What Father Does is Always Right.'' But Andersen, like his soldier, was not a man who ``wept tin.'' The match girl who longs for her grandmother, the fir tree who longs for glory, the tin soldier and the little dancer who long for each other—all return to the home they love only to die, and die young. Andersen's greatest stories were tragedies. They were written to haunt us and undoubtedly, one way or another, they always will. (Folklore. 8-12) Read full book review >
WATER PENNIES by N.M. Bodecker
Released: Dec. 5, 1991

From a noted Danish-born poet (d. 1988), a last collection of neatly crafted verse—small poems about small things, mostly insects and the like. With brief lines, deft rhymes and wordplay, and a quizzical sense of humor, Bodecker shares his amused reactions to chance encounters: ``The little/beetle/they call/pill/needs/no vet/when he/is ill./ Whatever shape/you find/him/in,/he is/his own/best medicine.'' Or, to an exasperating fly, ``...Not on my nose,/you nut; not on my finger;/not on my bald spot, numbskull;/leave me be!/I didn't sit on you/when you were sitting./So why on earth should you/now sit on me?'' The 32 poems are perfectly complemented by Blegvad's delicate pen drawings, on almost every page. A pleasure. (Poetry. 6-12) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 17, 1971

Reared in the intellectual atmosphere of Concord, Massachusetts by two parents seeped in the abstractions of transcendentalism, it's no wonder that Eleanor turns to the sepia-tinted fantasy world of the stereoscope (a present from her Hindu uncle Prince Krishna) for answers to her questions about guilt, redemption and the nature of the hereafter. Her stereoscopic journeys are historically eclectic, taking her to a primitive human sacrifice (unconsummated), a Gothic cathedral and a visit with a puritan ancestor, but the message is theologically specific with the trail of religious evolution leading right back home to Uncle Freddy's Yankee morality. Though skeptics will remain unconvinced by the final bit of family faith healing which absolves Eleanor's guilt over having caused injury to a friend, it's a mind-bending experience to follow her through the fast-paced revelations of her magic lantern catechism. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 10, 1971

"The theme is handled with judgment and sensitivity at just the right level, and the subdued black-and-white drawings, affectionate but unsentimental, are perfectly attuned. (Picture book. 3-8)"
For many children, the first encounter with death occurs with the loss of a pet; for such an occasion Mrs. Viorst offers honest consolation that emphasizes the cyclical continuity of life and applies as well to human death. Read full book review >
Released: May 11, 1967

Three characters in search of themselves, with a swing to transport them and Mrs. Truth to light the last stretch: an allegorical fantasy in shifting dimensions. Eleanor and Eddy discover that by swinging through each of the archways of the summerhouse they will reach a different destination: first Eddy finds himself in THE MAN-CASTLE evoked by Uncle Freddy ("Your body is your castle, isn't it?") as the metaphor for human potential; then Eleanor investigates WHAT ARE YOU WORTH?, discovers the value of each person to be "beyond price"; MAKE NEW WORLDS takes her to the world that she has made with paper dolls and tinsel dreams, and she finds it tiresome; and so on to the forbidden portal, GROW UP NOW. There the children turn to marble and Mrs. Truth explains to uncle Freddy who has never grown up: "one way to grow up is to stiffen and harden into one kind of person who is just the same forever." "But how can they help it? That's what growing up means." By keeping "the freshness and wonder of childhood all your life, even though you grow up in other ways." Because he has, he can release them; its time run out, the summerhouse, scene of their separate longings, explodes, but the rainbow—"a sign of the miracles that surround us every day"—remains. This is an independent sequel to The Diamond in the Winddow, and it is both less diffuse and more diverse; less diffuse because the pattern is obvious, more diverse because each episode reveals a different aspect of self-discovery and each transforms reality appropriately, immediately and inventively. Children will remember the giant cash register (WHAT ARE YOU WORTH) and the paper doll party (MAKE NEW WORLDS) and grave little Georgie, the aspiring reader (and the tingling illustrations) much longer than the all-too-obtrusive MESSAGE. Read full book review >