Books by Eve Bunting

Released: March 15, 2019

"A honk and a miss. (Picture book. 3-6)"
A little yellow truck wrestles with feelings of inadequacy. Read full book review >
I'M A DUCK by Eve Bunting
Released: March 13, 2018

"This is definitely a 'message' book, but any message in such effective hands will reach its intended audience where they are. (Picture book. 3-6)"
This gentle tale about overcoming fear will comfort and encourage many a reluctant kid (or duck), which represents a fairly wide young audience: what child isn't reluctant about something, at some point? Read full book review >
THUNDER HORSE by Eve Bunting
Released: Nov. 14, 2017

" A quiet tale of magic and love with delicate, realistic illustrations. (Picture book. 3-8)"
A child raises a magical horse and learns about the enduring power of love in this picture book. Read full book review >
GHOST CAT by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Kevin Barry
Released: Aug. 15, 2017

"A light, slight fantasy. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)"
Ghost cat Sailor Boy is a faithful companion even after the end. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2016

"A not-so-sweet-smelling Valentine treat. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Mr. Goat gathers everything he will need to show his first love just how much she means to him. Read full book review >
FORBIDDEN by Eve Bunting
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

"While this will probably not suffice for those wanting a dark and eerie love story, readers interested in historical fiction or a mildly creepy mystery (or both) will enjoy it. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
In this fast-paced mystery set in early-19th-century Scotland, 16-year-old Josie Ferguson is sent to live with estranged relatives after losing both of her parents to influenza. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2015

"Frog and friends are a delightful group—entertaining, charming, and funny. Just the sort of friends anyone is glad to have. (Early reader. 5-7) "
Frog and his animal pals celebrate the winter holidays in this latest in Bunting's early-reader series. Read full book review >
WHOSE SHOE? by Eve Bunting
Released: June 2, 2015

"It's an enjoyable read-aloud, but it feels cast a little too closely in its predecessor's mold and lacks the previous book's freshness. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Bunting and Ruzzier team up for another rollicking, rhyming search (Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?, 2013), this time for the owner of a lone shoe.Read full book review >
YARD SALE by Eve Bunting
Released: April 14, 2015

"A simple, moving tale of a family in transition. (Picture book. 3-7)"
When her parents hold a yard sale to downsize prior to moving, Callie experiences mixed emotions until she realizes she still has what's most important. Read full book review >
WASHDAY by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Brad Sneed
Released: April 1, 2014

"An appealing snapshot of rough-hewn life that might well make kids appreciate washing machines. (Picture book. 5-8)"
It's washday. That doesn't mean putting clothes in the washing machine and turning the knob or driving to the laundromat; it's 1889, when it's the old-fashioned way of getting clothes clean. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2013

"An affecting snapshot of a tragic day. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-7)"
An old, unwanted cart becomes part of Dr. Martin Luther King's funeral procession. Read full book review >
BIG BEAR'S BIG BOAT by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 24, 2013

"This story is more than just a tale of sticking to your vision—it's a small world unto itself. A keeper. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Bunting and Carpenter (Little Bear's Little Boat, 2003) team again with a story riding on a Thoreau-vian sensibility with a Zen serenity. Read full book review >
Released: March 5, 2013

"A great addition to the literature on ducks…or socks! (Picture book. 2-6)"
Where, oh where are Duck's new blue socks? Read full book review >
THE VOYAGE OF THE <i>SEA WOLF</i> by Eve Bunting
Released: May 1, 2012

"'Listen now, ye belly-whackers,' pirate fans are sure to savor this seafaring adventure and crave another in the series. (Historical fiction. 10-14)"
Ahoy ye mateys! Clamber on board the Sea Wolf for a salty adventure. Read full book review >
 BEST SUMMER EVER by Eve Bunting
Released: April 1, 2012

"There are good lessons here, but here's hoping Bunting will deliver the next ones with a healthier helping of humor. (Early reader. 6-8)"
Frog and his friends are back (Frog and Friends, 2011) in another trio of early-reader tales, but this time they focus less on humor and problem solving and more on life lessons and manners. Read full book review >
Released: March 6, 2012

"To balance this perspective, pair this with Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts, by Charlotte Wilcox (2000). (Picture book. 6-10)"
Maeve and her grandpa find an Irish bog mummy when they are out cutting peat. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2011

"Here's to many more adventures for Frog and his friends, who are sure to go home with fans of Fluffy and Morris. (Early reader. 5-8)"
Frog and his friends Rabbit, Possum, Raccoon and Squirrel tickle funny bones, explore the world, solve problems and support each other in this trio of stories. Read full book review >
PIRATE BOY by Eve Bunting
Released: Aug. 1, 2011

"A sweet Runaway Bunny book for the pirate set. (Picture book. 4-8)"
While reading a book about pirates, Danny considers sailing away with them. But what if he wants to come home? Read full book review >
TWEAK TWEAK by Eve Bunting
Released: May 1, 2011

Elephant mother and daughter enact an ages-old parent-child ritual. This book presents a pretty and friendly world, in which Mama Elephant is blue, Little Elephant is white and rosy, the sand is peach and every animal wears an expression of contented amusement. When Little Elephant goes for a walk with Mama, she holds on to Mama's tail and tweaks it twice to ask a question. Little sees a frog jumping and wants to know, "Can I jump?" Readers turn the page to a spread of Little flying through the air to the shock of the frogs below. "No," says Mama, "because you are not a frog. You are a little elephant. But you can stomp your foot and make a big sound." "Like that, Mama?" "Just like that, my little elephant," and the picture shows Little making quite a fine STOMP, STOMP! As they walk, Little imagines climbing an acacia tree like the monkeys, flying with a very anthropomorphic and beruffled butterfly and singing like a bird, only to learn what elephants do instead. Mama praises her for asking questions, so she can learn and grow to be "a big, strong, smart, beautiful elephant"—just like her Mama, suggests Little Elephant. In a nice touch, it is Little who leads Mama back home, past all the animals they saw on their walk. Captures exactly and sweetly a developmental ideal for both child and parent. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2011

After her mother's death, 15-year-old Catherine's pirate-captain father allows her to cut her hair and pretend to be his son in order to join the crew of his ship. Once readers suspend their disbelief about this, they will find that the plot quickly kicks into high gear. While barely maintaining her disguise, Catherine discovers a plan to steal a valuable gemstone from her father. Though it jeopardizes her secret, Catherine falls for the cabin boy, William. Having a girl onboard violates the pirate Code and spells bad fortune to the superstitious crew, imperiling all who participate in her charade. Two particularly evil sailors provide a constant menace. Brief, easily read chapters permit only superficial character development in this plot-driven, first-person narrative. Ample gritty details abound, though: Weevil-studded hardtack, a deck alive with roaches and vulgar, scheming crew members provide a sharp contrast to Catherine's naive adventure. A salty tang pervades this fast-paced pirate yarn, which provides a sometimes swashbuckling—but more often believably disgusting—perilous cruise across the high seas. (Historical fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
MY DOG JACK IS FAT by Eve Bunting
Released: March 1, 2011

Good intentions don't compensate for a heavy-handed approach in this latest effort to teach kids about the perils of obesity. Bunting's brief text plays out primarily in simple declarative sentences that appear as dialogue, thought balloons and the occasional description of straightforward action. When freckle-faced Carson takes his dog to the vet, she points out that Jack is too heavy and prescribes more exercise and less food. For some inexplicable reason, while Jack slims down, Carson bulks up on pizza, soda pop and the like, so that by the end of the month he's the one in need of intervention. Rex's flat, cartoon-style illustrations emphasize the blunt, unadorned style of the text but do little to flesh out the cardboard characters. Bright colors and whimsical details, such as Carson's bone-patterned shirt or Jack's ridiculous romp on a treadmill, do add some visual humor but not enough to lighten the overall effect. Carson's sad self-examination as he's dressed only in tighty-whiteys seems decidedly overdone, while his wordless conversion to a bike-riding calorie burner on the final page belies the truth suggested in earlier illustrations—that fast food bears much of the blame for the current epidemic of obesity. Skip this didactic drivel and skip rope instead. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2011

Bunting is perhaps best known for her skirmishes with heavy weather—racism, riots, homelessness, war—but that is not to deny her talent for pure whimsy, and that is what she delivers here. "Hey diddle diddle, the cat plays the fiddle," starts the classic, tomfool nursery rhyme. Enter the cow, but it's not jumping over the moon, it "plays the silver trombone." Then Bunting starts over, with a twist: "Hey diddle dum, the whale bangs the drum, / the seal's on the big saxophone"; "Hey diddle dumpet, the camel blows trumpet, / the elephant's awesome on bass." Fraser's accompanying artwork is cheery and saturated, the colors running from cool to hot, and the animals presented in comical two-page spreads, some discombobulated, some hep cats—sunglasses, a fez—even when they aren't cats. Then a young boy enters the picture, and there is a radical shift in perspective, a drawing back to show that the animals are part of a music-box band ensemble, a richly populated, wind-up toy orchestra that's as visually playful as a fancy birthday cake. Not the least of the music made here will be in a sing-along read-aloud, with accompanying guffaws to mark the time. (Picture book. 2-5)
Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

Bunting, who's known for her ability to artfully explore troubling issues, touches here on a lighter topic. A new baby is imminent, and Edward knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wants and will have a little brother, preferably named James. Edward watches the preparations and is not pleased that all the gifts are in non-decisive yellow or white. As his parents try to persuade him that a sister might be nice, Edward is adamant: "I'll give her to Aunt Elizabeth." Meanwhile, Edward also makes ready, and he fills the crib with toy cars and a baseball mitt. But when the baby comes home, Edward's heart melts and he can't help kissing his baby sister. The watercolor hues are baby-bunting tepid, but the lines are fluid and depict family closeness. Sweet and simple, this joins a handful of sibling-on-the-way books—including But I Wanted a Baby Brother, by Kate Feiffer and illustrated by Diane Goode (2010)—that traverse the same topic and extend, with great wit, beyond the new baby's arrival. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 8, 2008

Eight-year-old Allison is afraid to walk to school, a simple act made dangerous by "the Troubles" that wrack Northern Ireland. Accompanied by her mother and uncle, she crosses "Protestant territory" to get to her Catholic school. With her lucky marble clutched tightly, Allison fights through the spitting mob, her torn coat button flying. To her surprise, a Protestant child returns the article, and Allison hands her the cherished marble, concluding that children's friendships would overcome religious differences "if the grownups would let us." Bunting describes intolerance's complexity, painting Allison's uncle as a lovable family man but bigoted; Allison fears his direct involvement with a man's severe beating, causing her to ask herself, "But are we a bad lot, too?" Dooling's oils exude a grittiness that often results in jarring, unfocused perspectives that convey the turmoil. Having lived personally through this tumultuous period, Bunting includes an author's note for background. This work slowly examines religious intolerance's impact on one individual, providing no easy resolutions. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
OUR LIBRARY by Eve Bunting
Released: Aug. 18, 2008

Bunting wastes no time getting started in this energetic story about a small-town library in jeopardy. On the first page, a group of assorted woodland creatures are told by their librarian that the library needs too many repairs and must close. The enterprising animals decide to take out books on roof repairs and painting, and they get the library spiffed up in no time. Miss Goose (the librarian) is pleased, but says they still need more money to stay open, so after a few more books, they solve this problem—and others that crop up. The story's simple plot moves along, but the animals solve their problems so quickly that the tension disappears before it has a chance to build. This might be comforting to younger readers, but a bit boring to older ones. No surprises here and not billed to be a future classic, but entertaining and useful, with Smith's lively watercolor-and-acrylic illustrations providing a happy, small-town context. Librarians will probably find it hard to pass up. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
MOUSE ISLAND by Eve Bunting
Released: March 1, 2008

Bunting's story of an island-dwelling mouse is a tale of longing written with great flair, but it is also a bit perplexing. "Mouse lived alone on an island," it begins. Shortly thereafter, readers learn that "mouse wondered why he wasn't the most contented mouse on earth." Mouse might be clueless, but even the youngest readers will be hip to the problem. As Mouse attends to his daily rounds of the island—"Mouse tiptoed among the tide pools, nibbling the soft-bellied sea things"—sea lions honk to him from the beach and Herring Gull drops in for a visit, extending an invitation to see the world. So friends are available. Maybe Mouse needs more than friends; maybe Mouse needs a mate. Yet, the half-drowned furry thing he rescues from a shipwreck isn't another mouse. It's a cat. Mating is out, though friendship is in after initial misunderstandings are tidied up: "I would never eat you . . . I am an honorable cat and I have an obligation." Cat even teaches Mouse how to play beach volleyball. But aren't sea lions renowned ball handlers? Why didn't they teach Mouse? Still, much pleasure can be found in Bunting's melodious prose—"He saw whales passing, their white breaths smoking against the sky"—as well as Catalano's lovely pastels. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

Bunting creates a universe of feeling using deceptively simple language. She pulls in all the family members and friends who rejoice in the coming of a new child, and does it without specifying the baby's gender, or whether it is born to the family or adopted. The text is matched with Barbour's beautiful illustrations—deep colors and rich pastels in patterns that recall Klimt's luminescent florals and Chagall's elegant lines. In the mother's voice, the narrative recounts how people loved this child: "Before you were born, you were loved by your aunt," who paints the moon, stars and rainbow in the child's room. Grandparents offer the rocker that they used for the child's mother and aunt. A cousin sorts through his own baby clothes and a neighbor makes a kite. A marvelous integration of color, image and verbal rhythm sure to delight and to become a must-purchase for newborns and their parents. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Bunting tackles a distasteful subject—the power of suspicion and prejudice over the minds of otherwise ordinary people—through the eyes of a 12-year-old on a post-9/11 spring-break bus tour with his grandmother. The tour to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore serves as background for Kevin's vigilant observation of one of the other passengers—a man with a dark complexion, Greek name and a red bag he won't put down. Kevin and Geneva, a young girl on the trip, imagine that Mr. Stavros is carrying a bomb and has evil intentions, and the two of them, along with one of the adult passengers, chew relentlessly on their suspicions. Though Bunting keeps the pace quick and handles her briefly sketched characters with a sure hand (except for an occasional stumble over slang), the plot wears thin. A perceptive reader will anticipate the sad and simple answer long before the tidy ending reveals the reason that the contents of his bag are so important to him. (Fiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
EMMA’S TURTLE by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Emma's prized pet discovers a whole world in the backyard. Turtle, who narrates his own story, lives in a backyard pen where Emma gives him healthy snacks and reads adventure books aloud while rocking back and forth in her rope swing. Her stories fill the turtle with dreams and wanderlust, and he digs a hole under his pen and escapes, determined to see the world. He mistakes the tall grass for a jungle and the neighbor's striped cat for a tiger. Emma is relieved to find him, still in the backyard, and gives him a juicy snail and some strawberry slices. Snug in an overturned clay pot, the turtle reflects on his exciting journey and contemplates a new one tomorrow. Winborn's warm watercolors make simple scenes look fascinating and even dangerous, and she gives the turtle an impressive range of expressions. Young readers should relate to an odyssey close to home. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
HURRY! HURRY! by Eve Bunting
Released: March 1, 2007

Bursting from the barn on the title page, a proud hen exhorts all critters to hasten in and witness the "tap, tap, tappity-tap" of the farm's incipient addition. Mack's full-bleed, double-page acrylics crackle with a bright exuberance derived from the brief, scrappy text's insistent call to action. A goat leaps a fence—bleating "Coming! Coming!"—its fluffy white body filling the picture plane. An enthusiastic Border collie helps a careening flock of sheep go "Faster! Faster!" As the cracking egg's erstwhile denizen emits its first pair of cheeps, an array of inquisitive beaks and noses crowds around. Perfect for exuberant toddler storytimes and family read-alouds, this would also serve nicely as a colorful welcome for a new (human) addition. Highly recommended. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
BABY CAN by Eve Bunting
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

A young boy engages in innocent competition with his baby brother, with rewarding results. Brendan's family is enthralled with his baby brother James's accomplishments—so Brendan naturally gets into the act. When his Mom calls attention to Baby James's smile, Brendan calls attention to himself by proving he, too, can smile. When Dad praises Baby James for being smart enough to roll over, Brendan has to show that he can roll over and over and over. When Baby James's first burp wins Grandma's praise, Brendan produces his own big burp. By the time Baby James takes his first tottering steps, it is Brendan who alerts everyone and discovers he doesn't need to compete to get the best possible attention. Chambliss's charming watercolors showcase Baby James's development and Brendan's normal sibling rivalry with gentle humor and affection. Perfect for big brothers and sisters who might be a tad worried that the new baby will outshine them. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
REGGIE by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

"How complicated could dishonesty be?" In this lesson-filled story, a boy finds out the answer. Alex (eight-years old) finds a balloon floating in the air right in front of him; attached to the string is a stuffed mouse sporting a red vest. Before he can figure out why, he is smitten with the little guy and names him Reggie. So attached is Alex that he tears down the stapled signs that offer a $5.00 reward for the return of the mouse and deceives his parents about the fact that someone is looking for it. Even when faced with the crying owner and the disapproval of his best friend, herefuses to do the right thing. Only when his own dog disappears does Alex realize what he must do. Despite Burkett's rich, atmospheric pen-and-ink illustrations and the comfortable large font, it's hard to see who will enjoy this moralistic and unbelievable tale. As hard as it is to see a third-grader attaching himself to someone else's stuffed doll, it is impossible to accept that this sweet boy would keep it, especially in the face of a reward and a bawling little girl. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
ONE GREEN APPLE by Eve Bunting
Released: June 12, 2006

Lewin's sunlit watercolors, full of space and shadow, are a lovely match for Bunting's simple but never simplistic story. A girl named Farah in her second day at school visits an orchard with her class. She has no "outside-myself" words yet. This place where girls and boys can sit together, and where she is the only one with a headcovering, seems very strange to her. But the dogs in the orchard crunching the fallen apples sound like her dog in her home country. Each child is to pick one apple to bring to the cider press. Farah chooses one that is small and green and fits in her hand, a bit different from the others, just as she is. When they make room for her, she helps push the large handle to make the cider and then takes a drink. Belches, sneezes and laughter sweet and sour sound familiar to her. "App-ell," she finally says aloud. While making its point, this is a very gentle story about being new and different, with the author delivering her message in her classically subtle style. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
POP’S BRIDGE by Eve Bunting
Released: May 1, 2006

Practically bursting with pride, a lad tracks his "high-iron" father through binoculars as the Golden Gate Bridge goes up in this tribute both to the bridge itself, and to the teamwork that built it. Robert's best friend Charlie Shu's dad works on the bridge too, as a painter, but Robert thinks his own father's contribution is much more important. Then a serious accident claims the lives of several workers, causing Robert to understand that the bridge really "belongs" to everyone involved in its creation. Painting with soft-focus realism, Payne effectively captures the finished bridge's magnificence, as well as the widespread public excitement that greeted its opening in 1937. The story doesn't quite hang together, and is laced with mannered symbolism and some questionable cultural history, but like Connie Ann Kirk's Sky Dancers (2004, illustrated by Christy Hale), it offers a cogent glimpse of the human story that lies behind every great building project. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 16, 2006

The skies over the Irish countryside are clouding up: A rainbow is on the way. Leprechauns Ari, Boo and Col have a job to do. Despite the fact that no one ever finds their pot of gold, they must hide it at the end of the rainbow when it appears, because that's what leprechauns do. As they scurry down the country road, Ari, Boo and Col try to resist the temptation to do mischief (something everyone knows leprechauns do too). They just can't pass Mrs. Ballybunion's cow without painting her hooves red. They can't pass a stray tennis ball that, if found under a chicken, would confound Miss Maude Murphy. They complete their appointed task, and make it back in time to have a laugh at Miss Murphy's expense. This nice, if unnecessary, addition to St. Patrick's Day literature is a good introduction to the holiday's wee fairy symbols. Caldecott-winner McCully's sprightly watercolors bring prolific Bunting's cut-and-dried story to life. (Picture book. 4-9)Read full book review >
MY RED BALLOON by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Bunting captures the tension, fear, anxiety and release in a small boy whose father is coming home from a Navy tour. He and his mom are going to meet the ship, and he is carrying a heart-shaped red balloon that says "welcome home" on it. His mother reassures him that she has told his father what to look for in the crowd. However, in all of the confusion, the balloon breaks loose and the little boy, in whose first-person voice the story is told, cries and is sure his Daddy won't know him. But of course, his dad does, watching the balloon float up to the ship and looking down to his wife and child. The straightforward language is pitched perfectly and Life's naturalistic, warm-hued watercolors are reassuring. Sailors and their families—both genders, many ages and ethnicities—populate the pages along with the blond, blue-eyed boy and equally fair parents. Not sentimental but full of sentiment. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE LAMBKINS by Eve Bunting
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

Bunting offers an odd story of four plucky young people who are shrunk and forced to live in a dollhouse to satisfy a crazed woman's fantasy. The unhinged widow of a great scientist, Mrs. Shepherd "rescues" talented individuals to allow them freedom to devote to their avocations and to populate her incredible dollhouse with the children she never had. Shrinking serum and kidnapping are the means to nabbing her victims in the first place; weekly "vitamin shots" guarantee their perpetually tiny stature. She thinks she's doing her "lambkins" a favor; they know she's nuts and desperately plot escape. The hapless victims' personalities emerge as they bond over time, and there's a weird plausibility about all this as they try to make the best of their situation. The story won't suit everyone, especially since Bunting doesn't tie up all the loose ends, but there's enough menace to keep kids turning pages and rooting for the unwilling playthings. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2004

In this fictionalized, but doubtless reality-based encounter, an author addresses a class of middle-graders, and it's all that a school visit should be. Before children's author Amanda Drake arrives, the children have read her books, decorated the school, and with their teacher's help ("Don't ask her, / How much money do you make?"), prepared questions to ask. Drake in turn, pink streaks in her flyaway white hair, sweeps in, cutting a larger-than-life figure as she cuddles the class pets, talks enthusiastically about writing—"There's something that I'd like to share / because it's truly true. / It doesn't seem like work / if you are loving what you do"—and leaves the children itching to write stories of their own. Though Bunting amply demonstrates here that writing in verse is not her forte, along with Daniel Pinkwater's hilariously flip-side Author's Day (1993), this exuberant alternative to Louise Borden's low-key The Day Eddie Met The Author (2001) should be required reading in all schools planning author visits. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
I LOVE YOU, TOO! by Eve Bunting
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

An adorable small volume is just the right size for little hands and says just the right words for little voices. A line of animal children—Little Brown Puppy, Snowy White Kitten, Clever Little Monkey, and so on, each want to give their mama a present. Each finds just the right thing: carrots for Soft Little Rabbit's mama; a big leaf for Tiny Frog's mama; and a daisy chain for Little Pink Piglet's mama. The only rhyme in the simple rhythmic text comes when the child gives the gift: "This strawberry's so red and sweet. / It's for you and me and Dad to eat," says Little Turtle. Each mama responds with a similar refrain: "I love the strawberry, my Little Turtle, and I love you." It ends with Billy, who knows what his mama wants: a kiss, a hug—and a "very special bug." Sweet's limpid and winsome images, in bright washes of color, balance the text without being cloying. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE PRESENCE by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 22, 2003

Emotional depth resonates as 17-year-old Catherine fights off two kinds of haunting. Wracked with guilt and nightmares over a car accident that killed her best friend, Catherine goes to visit her warm and sparkly grandmother in Pasadena for a change of scene; however, in her grandmother's church, she's confronted by a dazzling, eerie man who's a ghost from the 19th century. Half the narration is in his disturbed, stalker-like voice, so readers know his horrifying murderous history long before Catherine does, but suspense remains about the outcome. Bunting's tight and compelling writing gives relentless emotional pain (a form of haunting indeed) as much play as physical danger. New friend/romance Collin, the minister's son, provides Catherine with fleeting bits of joy and a feeling of solidity from his realness. She is not free of burden by the end, but there is hope. Memorable. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
MY BIG BOY BED by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 22, 2003

With a wagon full of toys and blankets in tow, one little boy makes the journey from baby to little boy as he moves from a crib to a big boy bed. Focusing on all of the new freedoms that he can enjoy, this three-year-old helps his mother ready his bed with new linens he has helped select. He finds that he can bounce high on the bed and even crawl under it. Even lying still on the bed is an adventure because of all the room he has. It's not until the end of the story that Donny reveals another reason the move is necessary: Donny has a new baby brother and his crib is just the place for this new addition to sleep. Brightly colored illustrations rendered in bold watercolors keep the reassuring story fun and light. A humorous, gentle look at a very common experience. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
Released: May 19, 2003

Another healthy serving of charm and life lesson from the dependable Bunting, this time concerning destiny by way of a rowboat. Little Bear has a love affair going with his rowboat. He pokes about the lake in it, fishes from it, dreams while draped across its thwarts, all amicably depicted in Carpenter's dear, guileless pen-and-ink drawings. Then comes the day that Little Bear is little no longer and he swamps the boat with his bulk. His mother explains that "it is a little bear's destiny to grow and grow till he is a BIG BEAR. It is a little boat's destiny to stay the same size." But Little Bear has the boat's interests at heart, and some insight up his own sleeve: "It is a little boat's destiny to keep sailing on a blue, blue lake." So he sets out to find another little bear who will give the boat its due. The tradition continues, both for the little boat and for Bunting, who just goes on delivering classy tales of youthful metaphysics. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2003

From a seaside cliff, a boy and his father observe killer whales in Bunting's poetic ode. "They're orcas, every one," the boy's father explains when they spot five animals frolicking in the distance. "They may have come from colder seas / where icebergs float and break. / Icebergs, blue-white and polished by the sun." Davis's realistic illustrations show father and son up-close. He switches perspective in the next spread, zooming in on the whales spraying misty fountains from their blow holes; back on the grassy ledge, the humans are rendered small. The boy's questions spark discussion and Bunting embeds plenty of information in her verse, especially when she flips points of view, allowing the whales themselves to tell part of the story. For unadulterated information, and an in-depth explanation of concepts touched upon in the text, readers will want to head straight for Bunting's backmatter. The real draw here, however, is Davis's true-to-life depiction of these magnificent creatures and the sea they inhabit, making this a satisfying introduction to ocean life and a good starting point for further research. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 21, 2002

Bunting (One Candle, below, etc.) shows her consummate talent as a storyteller in this simple but profound tale of a cricket who comes in from the cold to find warmth, light, companionship, and ultimately joy in his own little world. The story, told from the cricket's point of view, follows the insect on his long journey into the house of a little girl and her father, who are celebrating Christmas Eve in a cheerful living room full of greenery and golden light. When the cricket hops up into a decorated Christmas tree next to an angel ornament, the little girl mistakes the cricket's song for the angel's voice. Her father explains: "Did you know that angels sing in the voices of birds, and frogs and people and crickets?" The cricket feels appreciated and sings his own joyful song as the little girl and her father sing "Joy to the World." Bush's watercolor illustrations bring the little cricket to life with his own personality, and the views of the candlelit Christmas scene effectively convey the warmth and transformative potential of the season. The story can serve as simply a satisfying tale of an endearing insect who finds his way or, on a deeper level, as a parable of the faith journey. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
GIRLS A TO Z by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The sky's the limit for Bunting's (Sing a Song of Piglets, p. 1218, etc.) assemblage of vivacious young ladies who imagine themselves in every profession under the sun. A simple alliterative listing of names and occupations is the basis of this affirming roll call. The exotic roster of appellations is a perfect match for the varied scope of vocations detailed; descriptions range from Gwen the gondolier, Quinn the harvest queen, Windermere the writer, to Ula the umpire. Bunting expands the horizon of employment opportunities for young girls, judiciously offering a blend of traditional and historically less-traditional female pursuits, firmly putting aside the notion of gender-specific employment. Librarians play alongside racecar drivers, a presidential candidate and a homemaker are equally touted, and a computer aficionado shares a spread with a ballerina. The gentle cadence of the rhyming text ties the verses together, unifying the seemingly disparate list of names and occupations. Bloom's (Piggy Monday, 2001, etc.) exuberantly colored illustrations convey the enthusiasm of these youngsters as they test the waters of possibilities. Like the avocations selected by Bunting, Bloom offers readers a broad spectrum of role models, portraying girls in a range of ethnicities, shapes, and physical characteristics. The final verse succinctly summarizes Bunting's empowering message: "Girls, / Be anything you want to be. / Do what you want to do. / Dream any dream you want to dream. / The world is here for you. " A treasure that should be on every young girl's bookshelf and maybe on a boy's as well. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
ONE CANDLE by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

This Hanukkah story about a family's ritual reenactment of Grandma and great-aunt Rose's Hanukkah spent at Buchenwald many years ago during the "bad time" propounds a disturbing view of the Holocaust. Grandma and great-aunt Rose demonstrate to the family how they hollowed out a potato stolen from the kitchen at the camp, filled it with a dab of stolen margarine, made a wick from a piece of thread, and lit a candle to commemorate the holiday. Popp's (Sister Anne's Hands, 1998) realistic drawings of the celebration are soft and subtly colored, reflecting the family's warmth and closeness, while the drawings of the camp are ghostly in sepia tones. Afterwards the whole family steps outside to look at the Hanukkah lights through the window and drink a toast to life. The disturbing piece is Grandpa's comment that "The Germans didn't like a lot of people. It wasn't only the Jews." For many, this is a deeply offensive statement, implying as it does that the Jews were not singled out by Hitler and the Germans for the very specific goal of total destruction. Even in the context of human history, the single-mindedness, efficiency, and technological resources put to the task make Hitler's war against the Jews exceptional. Grandpa's comment would be problematic in any event, but out of the mouth of the husband of a Holocaust survivor it is troubling indeed. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 2002

A celebration of the seasons by a veteran author and a Caldecott Medalist (Mirette on the High Wire, 1992). Two piglets romp and rollick throughout the months, from skiing in January to feasting in November (of course) and giving presents in December. The rhyme is simple and unvaried throughout, just right for a very young child to join in the fun. April's verse: "Sing a song of gardening, / digging with a hoe. / Pull the weeds / and plant the seeds / and watch the flowers grow." Lazy August suggests, "Sing a song of reading, / lying in the shade, / Chapter Three, / you read to me! / And pass the lemonade." McCully's fine line and pastel illustrations are energetic with an excellent eye at setting the scene. The month's title and verse are seamlessly incorporated within each double spread. Charming, buoyant, and year-round fun. (Picture book/poetry. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A brother and sister bring home a plastic skeleton from the harvest fair, hang him in their sycamore tree, and name him Fred McFee. When the wind blows, his bones go clickety-clack. Old dog Sam now avoids the tree and "the rooster's gone and the hens won't lay, / since we got Fred McFee." Then: "The dark is dropping like a cowl— / There's no star to be seen. / What's wrong with Sam? We hear him howl / This night of Halloween." The next morning McFee has vanished, gone from the sycamore tree, but below is a mound they know is a grave and they mark the spot with pebbles and shells. Now when the wind howls and shakes the tree, "We hear them dancing the dance of the dead—those bones of Fred McFee!" Told in rhyme with the rhythm of an old narrative poem, the story will work as a scary read-aloud but it's the attractive illustrations that cast the spell. The combination of smartly designed compositions and elongated perspectives creates an engrossingly eerie effect. The lines of the scratchboard and watercolors etch dimension into the shapes, pulling the scenes up in dramatic fashion. Jack-o'-lanterns shift from friendly to fearsome as they loom open-mouthed in the foreground. Fred is no namby-pamby skeleton; this is spookiness with attitude and a great new addition to Halloween shelves. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
WE WERE THERE by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 17, 2001

The indefatigable Bunting (Gleam and Glow, above, etc.) looks "beyond the light / to darkness / and the corner" where shadows hide spider, scorpion, bat, rat, cockroach, and snake, all of whom have come to join the cattle and other livestock gathered around baby Jesus. Though snake's reference to "the curving snake of sand that follows me" is obscure, in general the spare, rhythmic text makes its point ("I am there"), while effectively capturing a sense of the starlit night's significance. Minor's (Cat, What Is That?, p. 941) art looks less finished than usual, however, which would be more acceptable were it consistent—but in jolting contrast to the close-ups of spider and rat, in which every bristle and hair is carefully limned, the pictures of lamb, cow, and donkey, as well as some of the wider landscapes, look like they were painted with a spray gun. An uneven execution, but an eye-opening, consciousness-raising addition to the plethora of "animals at the manger" tales nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
GLEAM AND GLOW by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

In this aptly titled, lovely effort from Bunting (We Were There, below, etc.), humanity simply shines through. The work is all the more luminous for its basis in actual events. Set against the turmoil of the Bosnian war, it concerns a family left bereft by the absence of the patriarch, who has gone off to fight with the underground. One day, a man fleeing his village stops at the family's home and leaves a bowl containing two goldfish with the children. Despite the fact that the mother knows that her own family will have to depart soon, she gives in to her children's pleas and allows them to keep the fish. Named Gleam and Glow, they literally and figuratively serve as the only bright spots in this bleak existence. The night before the family leaves, eight-year-old Viktor slips the fish into the pond on their property. Now all the family can think about is their safety and a hoped-for reunion with Papa, who eventually locates his wife and youngsters in a refugee camp. Many months pass before villagers can return to their homes. Sadly, houses and towns have been ravaged in the meantime, but this family discovers to its astonishment that life, if only in a small way, has transcended the horrors of war: Gleam and Glow have miraculously survived and multiplied many times over. Sylvada's (A Symphony of Whales, 1999, etc.) oil paintings are dramatic and energetic. An author's note recounts the true story that inspired the tale. Though characters' names place them in an Eastern European milieu, this is a universal story that testifies to life rising from the ashes. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
PEEPERS by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Two sons of a leaf-peeper tour-bus operator can't get enough of mocking their father's clients as they ooh and aah over autumn's glory in the northern New England countryside. As the leaves start to turn, Jim and Andy help their dad uncover the Fred's Fall Color Tours bus and then squire around the peepers to various classic autumn venues: the beaver pond, the old church graveyard, the fields tricked out with pumpkins and sugar maples and shagbark hickories. The peepers can't help themselves: "Oh! How beautiful," they gasp; the beeches bending above the gravestones are "like blessings," they gush. The boys make moose ears behind their backs, roll their eyes, utter things like "What a ham" when a customer drapes her arm over the shoulders of a scarecrow. But these kids are far from cruel, and they're not immune to the surroundings either. They look hard at the rafts of leaves drifting down the river and enjoy the bite in the air. By the end of the story, they sit on a rock in the evening, agog at the number of stars in the early winter sky: "Look, how beautiful!" they say, not without a trace of self-consciousness. Bunting's (Gleam and Glow, p. 1118, etc.) assured voice runs through the story with transporting affability, and Ransome (Quilt Alphabet, p. 1119, etc.) cuts his palette loose to let autumn sing. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: May 31, 2001

Boy gets dog. Boy loses dog. Boy keeps dog from being killed. William, an 11-year-old still reeling from the separation of his parents and from his grandfather's death, gets what he thinks is the perfect dog. And indeed Riley is everything a dog should be: loyal, loving, intelligent. Because of their relationship, William begins to feel happier and more complete. He tries to explain his feelings to his best friend, Grace, who perceptively says, "Maybe that's one of the reasons people get dogs, to kind of close up the empty places inside them." Then trouble hits. Riley rushes an old horse named the Sultan and hurts it, though exactly what happened is left deliberately and annoyingly unclear. "One minute Riley was snapping at the Sultan's heels and the Sultan was whinnying and kicking back. The next minute the Sultan was down." The horse's owner calls animal control and Riley is taken away to be destroyed. William's parents hire a lawyer and William begins to wage a publicity campaign to save his pet. But many of the town members, including a local bully, do not support Riley, and forcefully and articulately state the opposing view. By keeping what happened ambiguous and being so evenhanded, the author blunts reader identification with her protagonist and his cause, and the end, which should be moving, fails to touch the heart. At best, a lesson that there are at least two sides to every issue. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
JIN WOO by Eve Bunting
Released: April 23, 2001

Among the prolific Bunting's many talents is a propensity for distilling complex social issues into accessible picture books that begin to make subjects such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, adult illiteracy, and homelessness more understandable to younger children. This picture-book exploration of the arrival of an adopted Korean baby named Jin Woo is the second collaboration by Bunting and Soentpiet (So Far From the Sea, 1998), and as a Korean adoptee himself, the talented Soentpiet is particularly well-qualified to illustrate this one. Jin Woo's story is told in the present tense from the viewpoint of the baby's older brother, a six- or seven-year-old named David, who is also adopted. He is alternately sad, hopeful, unbelieving, and excited at this change in his life, which is an accurate portrayal of the whirlwind of feelings that surround any new big brother. David's parents are understandably thrilled, with their joyous emotions captured in both Bunting's text and in Soentpiet's detailed, realistic paintings. His large-format illustrations are the book's main strength, surpassing Bunting's serviceable story, which is not as compelling as some of her other picture book texts. There are some wonderful recent books on inter-country adoption (notably Rose A. Lewis's I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, 2000), but very few that focus on the mixed feelings of older siblings. This will find a ready audience with many adoptive families, especially those preparing to adopt Asian babies. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2001

Bunting's Little Badger is as sweet and good as they come, and it is to her credit that the wee beast doesn't dissolve into a saccharine puddle, despite a push in that direction from Pham, who has a fondness for Disneyesque doe eyes and shy glances. Old Badger (Can You Do This, Old Badger?, 2000, etc.) treats Little Badger to a just-about birthday party. Little Badger delivers the invitations (along with those shy glances) to her friends Woodchuck, Crow, and Chipmunk. They appear at the clearing bearing gifts: a chafer grub, a green acorn, and a moonstone. As they sit around chatting and snacking on crimped worms, it is discovered that each of the partygoers is "just about" to have a birthday. Little Badger decides that "each of you must take home one of my presents." And they do, after some minor resistance and an assurance that all Little Badger needs is the big, bristly, dry-as-dirt pine cone given to him by Old Badger—and for Old Badger, the bluebell that Little Badger tucked behind his ear at the party. A thoughtful example of generosity, an unbroken circle of giving and taking, and, when she's not being coy, richly atmospheric illustrations. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: March 19, 2001

After a long string of career hits from Bunting (The Wall, 1990, Smoky Night, 1994, etc.), we have a miss: a bald, ham-handed allegory cautioning kids against gang membership and peer conformity. Danny, a ten-year-old, new-kid-on-the-block, is immediately greeted by a savvy tiger that invites him to come along for a ride. In a series of exchanges over multiple pages, they prowl the mean streets of an urban neighborhood. As the ride proceeds, the fun fades and it becomes clear that shopkeepers, cops, girls gathered on a street corner, and even a group shooting baskets are firmly under this tiger's paw. Ominously, gang colors and "tags" (here depicted as the tiger's black paw-print) are everywhere. Happily, the scales fall from Danny's eyes by the short ride's end. When Danny dismounts to help a terrified "bum, rooting through garbage," the tiger turns and snarls his threat: "You've had your chance. You'll never be one of us . . ." The message is pounded home: "Once you get up on the tiger's back, it's hard to get off. . . . But if you get off fast enough it's still possible." Frampton's handsome woodcuts capture the sinister slink of the tiger and the potent mix of attraction and danger he projects. Those who work in therapeutic settings with at-risk kids may want to add it to their treatment arsenal. However, libraries—especially urban libraries—may find this a far too simple answer to a complex question. Most general readers—kids and their parents, grandparents, and older siblings—will find this simplistic and preachy. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

In time for the Christmas season, a brief picture-book poem from Bunting, for very young Christian listeners who will enjoy guessing: "Who was born on this special day?" The narrator questions the lamb, then the goat, calf, donkey, dove, cedar tree, and stone—and each provides an answer according to its nature. For example, lamb says: "I was born back in early May / when the breezes of spring chased winter away." "It was not the lamb." And the cedar tree, when asked: "Is it your birthday, cedar tree?" Responds: "No, not mine. / When I was a seedling floating in space, a wandering wind dropped me here in this place." "It was not the tree." The rhyming couplets appear in white italics, superimposed on soft and fuzzy, blue-and-white acrylic paintings that show cuddly, curly-coated, big-eyed animals, twinkling stars, and fuzzy angels gliding through the night, culminating with the child Jesus in the manger. Pictures are best viewed from a distance. Sweet, but not essential. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)Read full book review >
DOLL BABY by Eve Bunting
Released: Aug. 21, 2000

In keeping with her willingness to take risks, Bunting (The Memory String, see below, etc.) tackles another "difficult" subject in this poignant, but unusual, cross between a picture book and a problem novel. Ellie's love for her doll Daisy quickly transfers to her own child, Angelica, born when Ellie is only 15 years old. With the somewhat grudging help of her parents, Ellie juggles school and motherhood, savoring the joys of her daughter while lamenting the loss of her own childhood. It's difficult to imagine the audience for this betwixt and between book. With the cover of a first reader, the illustrations of a picture book, and the content of at least a middle-grade reader, if not a young-adult novel, librarians will be hard-pressed to decide where best to shelve it. Teens, put off by the childish look of the book, will pass it by while young children, drawn by the artwork, will find the story far above their level of understanding. Although Bunting handles the subject matter skillfully and sensitively, it's so obviously neither fish nor fowl that it likely will remain tucked away on a shelf rather than finding its way into the hands of young girls like Ellie. (Fiction. 11-14)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 21, 2000

A string of treasured buttons becomes a metaphor for a young girl's struggle to accept her new stepmother in this poignant exploration of love and loss. Laura's memory buttons represent all the stories that have been handed down through generations of family, beginning with her great-grandmother. When her mother died, the memory string became a talisman, ensuring that Laura would remember all the times they shared. Now her father has remarried and Laura uses the memory string as a way of blocking out the presence of her new stepmother, Jane, someone Laura is determined can never take her real mother's place. Yet when the string accidentally breaks and the buttons scatter, it's Jane who searches with a flashlight far into the night until every button is found. Is it possible that there can be room in Laura's life for her stepmother after all? Sun-dappled watercolors capture the feel of a warm summer day and provide a framework for Laura's observation of her father and his new wife as they work together painting the front porch. Close-up illustrations portray Laura's range of emotions, from sadness and petulance to distress and finally tentative friendship. Bunting (Doll Baby, see above, etc.) has found an original way to tell an old story about making room for new memories.(Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SWAN IN LOVE by Eve Bunting
Released: April 1, 2000

Bunting (A Picnic in October, 1999, etc.) pens a sweet story about a swan in love with the wooden swan figurehead on a little boat. Swan (no relation to Proust's character of the same name) is hopelessly in love with the carved swan that adorns the front of a boat named "Dora." The other swans in the lake and the other animals—even the fish and the frog—mock his impossible love. Instead of migrating south with the other swans in the fall, Swan stays behind to keep Dora company during the winters. At the end of one winter, both Dora and Swan are showing signs of aging—Dora is full of cracks, is more gray than white now, and when she's put back into the water, she leaks badly; and Swan is slower and stiffer than he used to be. When Dora's human owner announces that the boat can't be fixed and will have to be destroyed, Swan goes crazy and attacks the man. But the love between Swan and Dora is too strong to be sundered, and both real and wooden swan are transformed into water lilies that float side by side on the lake. The pastel illustrations are absolutely exquisite and the depictions of the animals, especially the frog, are enormously appealing. But the moral this story delivers is a tad on the heavy-handed side—phrases such as "love was never wrong," "difference makes no difference to love," and "love makes magic" all hammer home the "love conquers all" message. While this is an agreeable story, it's not entirely successful, never quite becoming the magical tale it strives to be and of questionable interest to children. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Bunting (I Have an Olive Tree, p. 719, etc.) once again explores larger themes through a quiet family story. Every October, on Lady Liberty's birthday, Tony and his extended family have a picnic on Liberty Island. The family rendezvous at Battery Park to take the ferry out to the island. Waiting in line, Tony, who thinks the picnic is pretty corny, is approached by a woman, obviously a new immigrant. She gestures her alarm when the ferry departs without her; she is soothed when Tony motions that the ferry will return. Once on the island, Tony's family has the picnic before toasting the statue and blowing kisses to her. Later, Tony spies the woman he had helped earlier, and the way they look up at the statue, "so still, so respectful, so . . . so peaceful, makes me choke up." This sense of refuge drifts through Bunting's text, as fundamental and natural an element of life as are the everyday incidentals she braids into the story and all of which are exquisitely caught by Carpenter's vivid illustrations. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
BLACKWATER by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 30, 1999

In an unusually weak story from the prolific Bunting, a teenager wavers between staying silent and confessing his responsibility for a half-serious prank that results in two deaths. Offended at finding a girl on whom he had pinned some summer dreams making out with another boy, Brodie sneaks up to startle them, then watches in horror as they fall into the river and are swept away. His desperate effort to save them makes him an instant local celebrity. Injured, half drowned himself and sedated by the doctor, he has no chance to set the record straight at first, and as time goes by, the prospect of telling the truth becomes harder to contemplate. In the meantime, Alex, a visiting cousin who knows the truth, trumpets Brodie's heroism for reasons of his own, while there is evidence of a mysterious witness to the tragedy. With the support of a loyal friend and loving parents, Brodie finds the strength to come clean, but since he has been presented as a stable, right-thinking character, his decision is never really in doubt. While Bunting hints at the price Brodie will have to pay for holding back, the story ends before the boom actually falls. Ingrid Tomey makes the horns of a similar dilemma much sharper in Nobody Else Has To Know (p. 890), while Marion Dane Bauer, of course, charted a more subtle route in On My Honor (1986). (Fiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
Released: May 31, 1999

Both language and image are gorgeous in this affecting story of generations from Bunting (Some Frog!, 1998, etc.) and Barbour. When Sophia is seven, her grandfather gives her the olive tree that lives on the land their family once owned on a tiny island in faraway Greece. The next year, just before he dies, he gives Sophia the honey-colored beads that were her grandmother's, and asks her to hang them in her olive tree. Sophia and her mother make the journey from California to Greece, and then to the island, and Sophia describes what she sees and hears, e.g., her mother, reading aloud the names of the Greek shops "as if she liked the sound of them in her mouth"; sheep that bleat just like American sheep; the sound of the bouzouki playing. Bunting makes the strangeness of the journey and Sophia's growing understanding of her family history palpable, and Sophia's feelings when she places the beads in the ancient tree are complex but clear in a way that children will understand. The colors and shapes owe something to Chagall, and the sun-drenched blues and yellows, purples and violets recall Mediterranean folk pottery in the intensity of the color and the abstract, gestural line. The double-page opening of Sophia and her mother before the olive tree vibrates with emotion—a passionate marriage of word and text. (Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
SOME FROG! by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

A classroom frog-jumping competition results in a lesson in understanding and forgiveness, as a young boy learns that parents aren't perfect. Disappointed by his father's repeated broken promises, Billy finds it hard to hide his feelings and harder still to stop expecting the attention and love that his father is unable or unwilling to give. Waiting patiently to go frog-hunting at Miller's Pond, Billy's heart sinks as the minutes slip away and his dad fails to appear. He and his mother end up going to Miller's Pond and catch the frog that, the next day, easily wins the contest. Bunting's ending is realistic but hopeful; Billy's father never shows up, but Billy recognizes the value of the relationship he has with his mother and knows to expect less from adults. The plot, paced more like an easy reader than a picture book, and with a large typeface and ample atmospheric paintings, make this appeal to emerging readers, especially those facing their own feelings of loss and abandonment. (Fiction. 6-10) Read full book review >
SO FAR FROM THE SEA by Eve Bunting
Released: April 20, 1998

Political history becomes personal narrative in this evocative story about a family's connection to Manzanar, one of the WW II camps where Japanese-Americans were interned. Prior to moving from California to Boston, the Iwasakis pay a last visit to the grave of Grandfather Iwasaki. Gazing across acres of empty space that once housed close to 10,000 prisoners, Mr. and Mrs. Iwasaki share vivid memories of camp life with their two young children, Thomas and Laura. As they struggle to explain the unfair treatment accorded her ancestors, Laura listens quietly, then, just before leaving, places one final memento on her grandfather's grave. Bunting's spare prose effectively matches the developmental level of the ages for which this book is geared, and will generate questions that both educators and parents will find difficult to answer. Stark watercolors of the present alternate with black-and-white drawings representing scenes from the past. Together, text and illustrations create and sustain a mood of reflection and reminiscence suited to the topic. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1998

When a train pulls into town carting a dead whale, the citizens of Johnstown, Illinois—one in a Model A—eagerly hand over their buffalo-head nickels and dimes to Captain Pinkney for a chance to view the dead behemoth. Tommy, who has read about whales, is nauseated by the spectacle, particularly when it turns out the whale is rotting and smelly. His friend, Ben, wants to cut off a hunk of the whale as a souvenir, intentions that spell the end of his and Tommy's friendship. As the train is about to depart, the engine breaks down, and Captain Pinkney asks for the townspeople's help in burying the smelly carcass. Tommy feels somewhat better about putting the whale to rest, but it isn't until the following spring, when wild flowers flourish over the whale's grave, that Tommy believes that its death is appeased. The language Bunting (December, 1997, etc.) uses is clear as ever, and the analogy of the story, that standing up for what you believe in is the same as sticking up for yourself, rings true. It's just such an odd story, set in turn-of-the-century America, and made more peculiar by Menchin's collage artwork (which, significantly, gives the dead whale a human eye). That a child would be sensitive to the whale's plight may prove a timeless notion, but it feels more 1998 than 1920, the date on a nickel viewed close up. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
DECEMBER by Eve Bunting
Kirkus Star
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

An understated holiday story with dazzling art, by the duo behind Smoky Night (1994) and Going Home (1996). Simon and his mom live in a cardboard box, but they have a scrap of a Christmas tree, some found decorations including Simon's toy soldier, and an angel on the wall, named December, tom from an old calendar. On Christmas Eve, an old woman begs them to share their box, and they let her in, where Simon offers her one of the two cookies he is saving for Christmas day. In the morning, the old woman is gone, and the angel herself, singing softly, seems to fill the doorway before fading away. The next Christmas Eve finds Simon and his mother in a real apartment She has found a job, and the December angel is on their new wall. Diaz's acrylic, watercolor, and gouache paintings have the monumentality and intensity of stained glass, with their flat planes of color and black outlines. The agitation of some of his work has been subsumed into a gentler and more emotionally resonant style, set against collage backgrounds full of roses and angels. The angel, with the wings of the feathered cloak of a Mesoamerican goddess, is a glorious creation. Seen in almost every spread in a glowing palette of rose and gold, she draws the eye and the heart again and again. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
MOONSTICK by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 30, 1997

Bunting (The Pumpkin Fair, p. 947, etc.) turns a sensitive eye to Sioux culture, depicting it truthfully and realistically while incorporating into the book a heartening message to any child whose ancestral ways have passed (even temporarily) into obscurity. The father of the first-person narrator notches a moon-counting stick at the beginning of each of the 13 moons of the Sioux year, a way to mark the passing of the year. Sandford's appealing, unsentimental illustrations link the notches to the passing seasons, from the Moon of the Birth of Calves, through the Cherry-Ripening Moon when the men take part in the Sun Dance, and the Sore-Eyes Moon when snow so dazzles the narrator that his father reassures him that "changes come and will come again. It is so arranged." Soon it is time for a new moonstick, but, in a brief page, readers understand that many moonsticks have come and gone: The child is grown, his culture passed away, and the narrator's livelihood comes from the sale of his wife's beadwork and his own headdresses—"We do not hunt." That's the poignant clincher, so it's a relief that the narrator takes his small grandson to cut a stick, to pass on his father's wisdom, to note that changes will come again. Expertly and beautifully told. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
DUCKY by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 22, 1997

Even with the considerable talents of Bunting (Moonstick, p. 1108, etc.) and Wisniewski (Golem, 1996), this first-person news-based story of what happens to a plastic bathtub toy when he and the other 28,999 tub toys in his crate are washed overboard during a storm at sea doesn't quite make the transition to the picture-book form. Ducky narrates his long journey into—at last—a child's hands, while an author's note about what scientists learned about currents, winds, and tides from the toys' travels upstages the fictional treatment. Although some children may find it easy to enter into the mind of a bathtub toy, the anthropomorphisms become tiresome, and the suspense is somewhat lacking. The illustrations do evoke the sense of isolation of drifting endlessly on the vast seas; this book will appeal to those who enjoy reading the adventures of toasters, but never makes the leap into the domain of such creatures as the tub people or the more tradition-entrenched little engine that could. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 18, 1997

The reason for this determinedly jolly book seems to be to provide educators with a fall title that invokes autumn harvest themes and even jack-o'-lanterns—yet it never mentions Halloween. It's a bland book from Bunting (I Am the Mummy Heb-Nefert, p. 550, etc.), without her usual bite and wit: "I'm going to the Pumpkin Fair./Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!/'These ones here were grown from seed—/Yes sir, yes sir, yes indeed!' "The girl who narrates and her family attend a quaint, small-town festival, where there is pumpkin-bowling, pumpkin-basketball, pumpkin-carving, seed-spitting, deco ration, food, and her prize for "best-loved pumpkin anywhere." It's a family day, with children and pets everywhere and a band dressed as pumpkins. Bunting has done just about everything she can to celebrate the pumpkin, but why? Christelow valiantly trudges along, mustering as many pumpkin-related scenes as she can and stuffing them with comic characters and events, but even she begins to flag near the end. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

From Bunting (On Call Back Mountain, p. 138, etc.), a remarkably succinct and knowing "autobiography" of a mummy that provides the essence of life in the Egypt of the pharaohs, and which is strikingly illustrated by Christiana (The First Snow, 1996, etc.). The favored, beautiful daughter of a nomarch dances one evening for the pharaoh's brother, Ti. Soon she is a cherished wife, interrupting her idyllic existence only to revisit the home in which she once lived. Her parents are gone, but a house snake, set to catch grain-thieving mice, remains. "The same snake or another. Who could tell?" Heb-Nefert's ponderings arise from her current museum-display vantage point, a 3,000-year period of mummification in "the silent twilight of the afterlife," taken up "when day changed to eternity" and during which she has seen that all things change. Now she hovers in spirit above the display case at which museum-goers express astonishment that her mummy and the one near it—the mummy of her beloved husband—were once living people. Heb-Nefert thinks them foolish for not foreseeing that soon enough they will be dust and bones while she will remain as she is now, "black as night, stretched as tight as leather on a drum," although, in a stunning final line, there is a proud, immutable, and very human fact: "Once I was beautiful." Christiana provides haunting portraits, hints of a spirit world, and misty glimpses as well as bold scenes of the past. A startling shot of a contemporary child underscores Heb-Nefert's dulcet lament in this compelling work. (Picture book. 6-11)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

Joe and Ben anxiously await the annual summer return of their friend Bosco Burak, the elderly lookout in the fire tower that stands on the peak above their family's cabin. Although the forest was devastated by a fire that drove the animals away a few summers ago, Bosco tells the boys that there is new growth and that the animals will return to Call Back Mountain, just as Bosco always does. Every night that Bosco is on the tower, the boys signal goodnight with their lanterns, and Bosco's light answers. Then one night there is no answer—Bosco has had a fatal heart attack, and Ben and Joe must come to terms with his death. The night after Bosco's death, the boys spot a lone wolf with great shining eyes and long, spindly legs, just like Bosco's, on a ledge—the animals have returned. Simply written and gloriously illustrated, this tale of love, loss, and renewal lingers long after the last page is turned. Bunting (The Blue and the Gray, 1996, etc.) presents complex issues in a way that even very young readers will grasp. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

Bunting adds to her series of picture books with serious themes (Smoky Night, 1994, etc.) with this account of an unnamed Civil War battle framed within a present-day story of two young boys, one black, one white, whose new homes are being constructed within view of an unmarked battlefield. As the two boys, fast friends, explore their new homesites, they learn about the tragic loss of life that happened there in that war of "us against us . . . the saddest kind of war there is." Bunting's text is mostly stated in the manner of a child's brief sentences, but sprinkled with rhyming words and typographically arranged like a poem in short lines that slow the reading to a somber pace. Bittinger's oils capture both the bucolic peace of the present-day countryside and the smoke and turmoil of battle, in one case as seen from exactly the same point of view in two consecutive spreads. Particularly effective is the ghostly presence of soldiers, cannon, horses, and wagons as faint silhouettes in some scenes of the two young friends. Offering only hints of the issues over which the war was fought, this is not a book to read without preparation, but it is a worthy complement to books such as Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say (1994) and Karen Ackerman's The Tin Heart (1990). (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
GOING HOME by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
Released: Sept. 30, 1996

From the Caldecott Medal—winning team behind Smoky Night (1994), the story of a migrant family returning to Mexico for the Christmas holidays. Carlos and his sisters are not at all sure that "home" is Mexico, although they were born there. It is difficult for them to understand their parents' enthusiasm for the long journey and for the tiny town of La Perla at the end of it. A tender revelation, when Carlos realizes that his parents left the place they deeply loved to provide their children with "opportunities," ties the tale of the journey to the season, the moment, and the future. Diaz creates an explosion of color in his familiar format of a visual environment that is whole and entire: He designed the eccentric, legible typeface; set the framed illustrations and text blocks on digitally enhanced photographs of flowers, pottery, baskets, and folk art; and filled the pictures with his signature saturated colors in bold, broad planes. These do not bind readers to the tale any more than the words do, hinting at the depth of parental love and sacrifice while distancing children from genuine understanding. An affectionate, but not exceptional offering. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SECRET PLACE by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Rand
Released: Aug. 16, 1996

Bunting (Train to Somewhere, p. 65, etc.) writes about a small boy who discovers a secret place—a small patch of wildlife—at night in the river that runs through a cacophonous, polluted urban center—"Close by is a freeway where cars and trucks boom, and a railroad track with freight trains that shunt and grunt." He shares this discovery with his father who runs a forklift at night and "is good with secrets," a young married couple, and others who teach him the names of the birds. The snowy egret feeds, green-winged teals and buffleheads skim the water, a mallard duck raises ducklings, and a coyote and possum with babies come to drink. The boy wants to tell even more people about the secret place, but decides to be careful in the name of protecting it. The brief poetic text captures the surprising beauty of nature in the city, where "The phone wires rocked the moon/in their cradle of lines./The stars rested bright on the telephone poles." Luminous watercolors juxtapose the concrete and smoke of warehouses and wharves in an evocative and deeply satisfying work. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SOS TITANIC by Eve Bunting
Released: May 1, 1996

From a familiar event, Bunting (Train to Somewhere, p. 65, etc.) creates a gripping story that will have readers struggling right along with its hero on the doomed Titanic. Barry O'Neill, 15, leaves Ireland, where he's been living with his grandparents, to join his parents in New York. He sails in first class on the largest oceangoing vessel in the world, the Titanic. Also on board, in steerage, are Barry's worst enemies, the fighting Flynn boys, who have threatened to throw him overboard; with them is their gentle sister Pegeen. From the outset, Barry fares badly with the Flynns; in the meantime, his steward—born with a caul—predicts disaster for the ship and its occupants. The one positive force is Barry's crush on Pegeen and her reciprocal interest. When the ship begins to sink, Barry witnesses the other passengers' disbelief and jocularity, and then their panic or (more rarely) stoicism. He makes a desperate attempt to find Pegeen, who is trapped with hundreds of others in steerage until all the lifeboats are launched. Suspense, adventure, romance, and a protagonist who comes of age under terrible circumstances combine in a novel that survives the tragedy at its center without diminishing it, and somehow remains upbeat. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
MARKET DAY by Eve Bunting
Released: March 30, 1996

Bunting (Dandelions, 1995, etc.) evokes an old-fashioned Irish Market Day in an era in which it took all day to spend a penny. Pig-tailed Tess, age seven, and her friend, Wee Boy, who "never grew past four," enjoy the cheerful commotion of farm animals ("you can't walk in the street without your Wellies" because of what the animals "have been doing"), a lace petticoat-stealing goat, and sideshow performers ("We're hoping something interesting will appear on the point," they say of the sword swallower). When Wee Boy worries that he'll always be wee, Tess spends her last ha'penny on a gypsy fortuneteller. Madame Savanna tells Wee Boy he'll be as "big and brave" as he needs to be. Her reassurance may sound a little hollow to readers who remember the words of Tess's mother, that the gypsy "makes up what people want to hear" in her hope-filled visions. Although the rambling story never really meshes—this is a leisurely and chaotic visit—there's so much warmth, ebullience, and jaunty charm in Berry's good-humored paintings that every page offers a richly satisfying eyeful. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 18, 1996

A moving piece of Americana from a veteran team (Fly Away Home, 1992, etc.), introducing the orphan trains of the 19th and early 20th century to a picture-book audience. Marianne narrates; she's among 14 children from the orphanages and streets of New York City who are being shipped to the "New West" of Illinois and Iowa in search of good homes. At stop after stop her traveling mates are chosen, some clearly for their strength and usefulness, others for their looks. Marianne is neither strong nor pretty and is repeatedly passed over. Secretly she has promised herself that her mother would be at one of the stops to meet her. In the end she is taken in by a nice, elderly couple who readers know will treat her well. Himler's lovely watercolor and gouache paintings express both the loneliness and hope of the children in scene after scene of the rugged new country. A reminder that the good old days were not so idyllic; this book will have a place in the history curriculum, but it's also an involving read-aloud. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
DANDELIONS by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Greg Shed
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

It would be hard to come up with a tale of western settlers that's not a cliché, but Bunting (Spying on Miss Muller, p. 553, etc.) has done it. She takes a look at a pioneer woman, seen through the sympathetic eyes of her daughter, Zoe. While Zoe's father is challenged by the prospect of building a sod house on his turf, his pregnant wife is obviously homesick, and the prairie offers little solace: The view never changes, there are few neighbors, the closest town is a day's journey. In the gift of a miraculous patch of dandelions dug up from the roadside, Zoe hopes to cheer her mother (for a book for older readers, with a similar theme, see the review of Jennifer Armstrong's Black-Eyed Susan, above). Of the re-rooting of the dandelions, her mother says, "Don't expect a miracle, Zoe. It will take time." The last page shows the sod house crowned by a roof of gold. Shed (Staton Rabin's Casey Over There, 1994) creates scenes that makes this family larger-than-life; they capture the baked yellow heat of summer, and the golden weed that represents home. A memorable book, for the way its characters struggle with unhappiness, and slowly overcome it. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
Released: April 24, 1995

Miss Müller — half-Irish, half-German — is a favorite of the girls at Belfast's Alveara School until the start of WW II. Then, caught up in the anti-German fervor of the day, 13-year-old Jessie and her friends convince themselves that the teacher is creeping up to the roof to signal German observers with her flashlight. After one of these forays, Belfast is bombed for the first time, and the girls resolve to catch Miss Müller in the act. Jessie joins in, saddened because the woman has always been exceptionally kind to her. But war is war; the girls begin their vigil, and learn that the teacher is engaged in romantic — and not wartime — assignations. Even so, the girls' discovery forces Miss Müller to leave the school and Jessie, at least, must live with her guilt. Bunting (The In-Between Days, 1994, etc.) shows the confusion and hysteria that wartime brings to the lives of the young, and in the process paints a true-to-life and often very funny picture of boarding school life in a more innocent era. The one false note is Jessie's belated and rather facile acceptance of her father's alcoholism (somehow linked to Miss Müller's acceptance of her own father's Nazism), but it's not enough to spoil a good story well told. (Fiction. 9-13)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 1994

"The ice looks so still, but I know everything is moving out there, the pieces fitting themselves together," says 11-year-old George of the frozen harbor beyond his house. In one elegant sentence, Bunting (Night of the Gargoyles, p. 1122, etc.; A Day's Work, see above) manages to convey the shifting and unstable world of a child whose mother has died. This book, which is about George's father's remarriage, quietly and accurately captures the way feisty George tries to turn his grief into anger, and finally fails. It is marred by dialogue that is at times too elegant ("Oh, surely they wouldn't," the preteen thinks when someone mentions remarriage; "And I send mine to her," says a five-year-old boy when told someone has sent their love his way). But we're always swiftly lured back to where we belong — the child's perspective — whether pondering the odds of being grabbed by an octopus or wondering if Santa's going to make it through a storm. Beautifully rendered, from the depiction of the in-between days of Dove Islanders waiting for an ice-bridge of discarded Christmas trees to be built to the myriad odd little places Bunting finds love (in one scene it's a badly knitted scarf that's too long because the knitter "just didn't want to stop"). Powerful and poignant. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 19, 1994

At night a motley assortment of gargoyles come alive to "creep on stubs of feet," to fly "if they have gargoyle wings, straight up to lick the stars with long stone tongues," or to land in "sleeping trees." But eventually they all gather at a fountain to "gargoyle-hunch around the rim and gargoyle-grunt with friends from other corners who have come for company" and complain all night long about the sun, the rain (which "pours in torrents through their gaping lips and chokes their throats with autumn leaves") and—of course—the "humans who have made them so and set them high on ledges where dark pigeons go." These monsters, defined at the beginning of the book as waterspouts representing grotesque human or animal figures, come in a variety of forms—all surprisingly unsinister, despite Wiesner's gray palette. Somehow, these gargoyles appear stone-like and cuddly at the same time. Caldecott medalwinner Wiesner's charcoal drawings are as breathtaking as Bunting's prose in this wildly successful attempt to prove what we've always suspected: The gargoyle lives. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
A DAY'S WORK by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 19, 1994

Award-winning author Bunting's (Night of the Gargoyles, p. 1122, etc.; The In-Between Days) persuasive moral tale about a young Mexican boy in contemporary California who lies in order to help his family. Francisco accompanies his grandfather to get work as a day laborer because grandfather, or "Abuelo," doesn't speak English. When a man comes along asking for a gardener, Francisco eagerly tells him that Abuelo is an excellent gardener. But as it turns out, neither Abuelo nor Francisco knows much about plants, and instead of pulling out the weeds, they pull out all the healthy new plants instead. The man who hired them is angry, and Abuelo is confused, until he learns the extent of his grandson's involvement in the mistake. Francisco is ashamed of what he has done and admires Abuelo's dignity under the circumstances: Abuelo insists on doing the job right and will not accept the man's offer of payment until it has been done. Himler's gentle watercolor illustrations capture the hot, dry landscape and the cowed, yet hopeful, postures of immigrants seeking to make their way in a new land. A fine, moving story that manages to convey an important moral message without sounding preachy or didactic. (Fiction/Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: June 30, 1994

When 10-year-old Colin's dirty sneakers disappear from outside his apartment door, he's sure the culprit is Jack, his chief rival in a contest for the most offensive footwear (the prize: two new pairs of Slam Dunkers). Colin retaliates by hiding Jack's sneakers—only to discover that a well-meaning neighbor had actually rescued, washed, and returned his own, thus ruining his chance of winning. Hoping to undo the mischief, Colin, his little sister Amy, and best pal Webster plunge into the depths of a garbage truck, retrieve Jack's sneakers, and return them just in time. However, since obnoxious Jack and his bully brother Shrike have broken the sneaker-messing rules, none of the boys wins; the prize goes to Colin's secret sweetheart. Curiously, the icky appeal, kid-tickling story line, and lesson about integrity and fairness here all closely parallel those in Julie Ann Peters's half-as-long The Stinky Sneaker Contest (1992). (Fiction. 8-11)Read full book review >
FLOWER GARDEN by Eve Bunting
Released: April 1, 1994

A young girl carries a carton of potted flowers from the supermarket home and up the stairs; she and her father replant them in a window box and light candles on a birthday cake to surprise Mom when she comes wearily home from work. In Hewitt's expansive oil paintings, the girl's honey-brown face shines as brightly as the daisies and daffodils; Bunting's brief rhymed text ("Garden in a cardboard box/Walking to the bus/Garden sitting on our laps/People smile at us!") celebrates the child's contagious happiness, the warm response of everyone who sees her, and the pleasure of having "a color jamboree" of flowers in the window of an inner-city apartment, high above the street. A simple, pleasing episode with a contemporary subtext. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
SUNSHINE HOME by Eve Bunting
Released: March 21, 1994

Timmie and his parents make their first visit to Gram at a nursing home; she's had to move there since "the doctors said she needed full-time nursing care." Until now, Gram has lived with Timmie's family, and it's so hard for Mom to see her here that she talks in an unnaturally bright voice, only to weep once she's outside. Rushing back to deliver a picture he forgot to leave and discovering Gram in tears too, Timmie pulls Mom back inside, where the honesty of shared grief provides at least some comfort. Bunting catches the nursing home ambience with empathy and precision—the sharp smell "like mouthwash, or the green bar that Mom hangs in the toilet bowl"; the elderly dozing in wheelchairs, intruding on one another's visitors, or joshing; their families filling time with small talk. In perceptive, realistic watercolors, de Groat characterizes Timmie's family with loving care and depicts the residents of the home in enough realistic variety to give young readers a good idea of what to expect on such a visit. A poignant slice of life in the 90's; Timmie's successful intervention sends the message that even a child can offer real consolation. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SMOKY NIGHT by Eve Bunting
Released: March 1, 1994

A noted author (Fly Away Home, 1991) brings all her empathy and creative skill to another timely topic: an inner-city riot. Standing well back from their window, Daniel and his mama watch looters steal TVs and break into Kim's market. When it quiets down the two fall asleep, only to be roused: their building is burning, so they escape, through ravaged streets, to a shelter. Though Bunting offers no reasons for the violence, she succinctly describes the mob's psychology. Mama explains, "...people get angry. They want to smash and destroy. They don't care anymore what's right...After a while it's like a game," while Daniel observes, "They look angry. But they look happy, too." The story is rounded out with a touch of reconciliation: Mama has't patronized Kim's market ("'s better if we buy from our own people") but, after Daniel's cat and Mrs. Kims' make friends at the shelter, the people realize that they, too, could be friendly. Diaz's art — rough-edged acrylic paintings mounted on collages of paper, burnt matches, and materials that might be found blowing on a California street — is extraordinarily powerful. Defined in heavy black, the expressionistically rendered faces are intense with smoky shades and dark, neon-lit color. An outstandingly handsome book that represents its subject realistically while underplaying the worst of its horrors; an excellent vehicle for discussion. (Picture book. 4+)Read full book review >
SOMEDAY A TREE by Eve Bunting
Released: March 22, 1993

The team who collaborated on The Wall (1990) and Fly Away Home (1991, both ALA Notables) takes on another contemporary issue in a story about a beloved tree, an ancient oak, succumbing to pollutants. Alice describes the tree's importance to her family—not just a favorite picnic spot but the site of events like her christening. When Alice notices a "funny" smell, withering grass, and leaves falling (it's spring), a tree doctor is summoned; she reports that the tree has been poisoned, perhaps by illegal dumping. Neighbors pitch in for a rescue effort involving spraying, sunscreens, laborious soil replacement, and more whimsical gestures like get-well cards and chicken soup, but to no avail; even Mom weeps. Still, with youthful hope, Alice plants some acorns she gathered while the tree was still healthy. Deliberately poignant but more plausible and skillfully written than most of the recent spate of consciousness-raising books about trees; Himler's sensitive, evocative watercolors make a fine complement to the lyrical, perceptive text. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
COFFIN ON A CASE by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 30, 1992

Here, Bunting brings a glib, easy style to the tale of Henry Coffin, son of a partner in the detective agency "Coffin and Pale." When his father is unable to take on a case, sixth-grader Henry hooks up with "gorgeous babe" Lily—several years his senior—whose mother has disappeared. Figuring in the plot are the theft of a jade figurine, the appearance of two shady newcomers in a still-under-construction development, and the discovery of a missing wooden stork. It's a point-blank mystery that gets its atmosphere from Henry's funny narration and the frequent invocation of the name and talents of "Sam Spade"; and though Bunting's more sophisticated fans may not find much to get their claws into, those who like uncomplicated suspense will be (albeit briefly) entertained. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 19, 1992

Seven-year-old Allie goes on a special outing, by train, with her grandfather to see The Nutcracker—her first trip to the theater. It's also a poignant commemoration: Grandpa took Allie's mother, who died when Allie was three, to a Christmas Eve performance of the ballet the year she was seven. Responding to Allie's anxious sympathy, Grandpa explains that he's not sad: "A loving memory is happy" (not, surely, the whole truth, but adequate in context). Peck's freely painted oils—her rough, telling strokes leave the canvas exposed, effectively portraying a California setting some time ago; her dark palette (somber but appropriate) and impressionistic portrayals (especially of dancers) refer to Degas and reveal a new self-confidence in this talented illustrator. An evocative vignette. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 21, 1992

A warm—but unsentimental—story about the excitement, anticipation, and anxieties experienced by a first-grade class whose teacher has a baby during the school year. The children's questions and comments, the teacher's good-humored responses, and the way this event becomes a focus for activities make not only a good story but an excellent set of lesson plans for pregnant teachers! The watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the postures, moods, and expressions of the children and the liveliness of their classroom. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SUMMER WHEELS by Eve Bunting
Released: April 1, 1992

In a neighborhood where few kids own bikes, the "Bicycle Man" (based on a real person) loans out his lovingly renovated collection, with just two rules: the bikes must be returned by four, and if they're damaged, the borrower must help make repairs. One day blond Brady and his friend Lawrence (the African-American narrator) make an early return; Lawrence is dismayed to see a tough-looking boy taking his favorite bike, signing an obviously false name. Sure enough, "Abrehem Lincoln" doesn't bring the bike back until the younger boys pursue him next day; and when he's entrusted with a second bike, he misuses it—but then returns to confide his true name and make an earnest effort at repair. Reformation comes almost effortlessly in this easily read chapter book, yet the dynamics of the situation are true to life as well as idealistic, the story crafted with details that give its characters individuality. In illustrations beautifully limned in impressionistic charcoal and pastels, Allen evokes character, mood, and the West Coast setting. An inspiring story with broad appeal and a handsome format. (Fiction/Young reader. 6-11)Read full book review >
SHARING SUSAN by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 30, 1991

Bunting explores what happens after two couples learn that their daughters were switched as babies in the hospital. Susan, 12, only child of a librarian and an art professor at Santa Cruz, is horrified when her parents tell her about the mix-up, discovered because Marlene Stobbel, recently dead in an accident, had the wrong blood type for a child of her supposed parents. Hoping to avoid publicity and do the best for Susan, the four parents, with their lawyers, draw up an agreement: after an introductory weekend with everyone there, Susan will alternate between the two couples, with the coming school year to be spent with the Stobbels. Rebelliously, Susan goes with her parents to Los Angeles, where the Stobbels run a swimming-pool business and live in a crowded suburb. Though her feelings remain mixed, she begins to accept her new role within a couple of days—her four-year-old brother is sweet; there's a nice boy next door; and she comes to share her mother's empathy for Mrs. Stobbel. Bunting's perceptively drawn characters and their initial conscientious but loving reactions to the situation are poignant and credible. But her story's development is less plausible: surely the wise, kind parents she depicts so skillfully would consult a 12-year-old concerning her own fate; surely taking her from the only parents she knows for a majority of the time, without her consent, is not in her best interests; and surely any transition would be more painful, and take longer, than is suggested here. A gripping but flawed story, then, to provoke vigorous discussion. (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

Impelled by a heady blend of peer pressure and vainglory, a group of recently graduated California teens revive the local stunt of leaping from a 90-foot cliff into the sea where some of their predecessors died. Skillfully, Bunting homes in on the dynamics of daredevil behavior, omitting such trappings of teen rebellion as alcohol, drugs, or problem parents. Conscientious Dru, her narrator, is about to be a scholarship student at Northwestern; Dru's new boyfriend, Mike, is rich but very nice. Dru's anxiety especially concerns her close friend Elisa, whose mental health she knows is fragile. Elisa's charismatic but boorishly insensitive boyfriend, Scooter, cajoles Elisa into joining him in the first jump. Afraid to lore him, Elisa complies; Though neither is physically hurt, the effect on Elisa is traumatic. Next, driven by the growing exhilaration plus competition over Mike's sexy former girlfriend, twin boys jump, surviving with minor injuries but adding to the tension—to which Elisa tragically succumbs before Mike and Dru are able to carry out their difficult resolution to inform the police. Satisfying suspense that unobtrusively incorporates wholesome values while drawing a credible picture of ordinary teens enthralled by their own escalating frenzy. (Fiction. 12-17)Read full book review >
NIGHT TREE by Eve Bunting
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Rand
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

A classic nuclear family shares their own Christmas Eve tradition, leaving their conventionally decorated ranch house in Dad's pickup to deck a live tree in the woods with popcorn and fruit for the forest creatures. It's all deliberately cozy—the constant smiles; the hot chocolate and songs (the boy, who narrates, chooses a carol but little Nina wants "Old MacDonald"); the boy tucked in at the end under a Christmas quilt that echoes the forest scene. A warm Christmas card of a book, in the best sense; Rand's moonlit watercolors are sure to be as popular as the conventional but warmhearted story. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
THE HIDEOUT by Eve Bunting
Released: April 1, 1991

In a plot device that is becoming familiar, a new stepparent is the reason that a child—here it's 12-year-old Andy, in San Francisco—ventures into the streets, where he discovers that the world is more wicked than anything he has faced at home. Having run away, Andy makes camp in the luxury suite of a nearby hotel, to which he has found a key. He periodically phones his real father, in London, hoping he'll send air fare. But Fred (of the hotel staff) cuts short Andy's plans, homing in on his faked kidnapping and making it all too real. Shortwave radio is the means for Andy's rescue; Paul, the "wicked" stepfather, is forgiven. Largely contrived, and, though Andy's uneasiness with his mother and Paul's sexuality is clearly compelling, any realistic exploration of his perfectly believable feelings is pushed aside to make room for the hollow, feel-good ending. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 18, 1991

As a Father's Day treat, Susie takes her dad to what she fondly imagines are all his favorite places: a fast-food restaurant (for which she graciously allows him to pay), the duck pond, the merry-go-round, etc. Meanwhile, Mom has fixed a celebratory meal—a "surprise" that Susie has igenuously revealed. A warm, realistic story to be shared by those young enough to be as cozily complacent as Susie and those old enough to get the joke. Lively illustrations extend to fun. Read full book review >
FLY AWAY HOME by Eve Bunting
Released: March 18, 1991

"My dad and I live in an airport. That's because we don't have a home and the airport is better than the streets. We are careful not to get caught." Thus begins this poignant narrative in the voice of a preschooler. The boy's widower-father leaves him with another homeless family when he goes to his part-time job as a janitor, and searches second-hand newspapers for more work and an apartment they can afford: "After next summer, Dad says, I have to start school"—but how? Meanwhile, in the vast, impersonal space where lucky travelers are welcomed home, the two find some sense of community but treasure their hope of escape to a place of their own. Using quiet browns and blues to suggest the sterile-looking airport and depicting the homeless with undefined faces and averted eyes—which evoke both their own need to be unseen to survive and others' aversion to seeing them—Himler matches Bunting's understated text with gentle sensibility. Like The Wall (1990), an outstanding presentation of a serious topic for young children. Read full book review >
SUCH NICE KIDS by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 22, 1990

Jason, psyched for his dinner date with a girl named Destiny, is dismayed when the plans of his friends Pidge and Meeker intrude. Jason's parents are out of town; Pidge needs Jason's mother's car as transport for his own date. Persuaded by Meeker that his mother will never know, Jason reluctantly agrees—setting off a chain of events that end with Pidge dead at the hands of drug dealers. While this didactic short novel makes points about the dangers of passively following another's lead, it reads like a parent's ultimate scare tactic—"See what happens when you borrow my car without asking?" Moreover, there is no real character development. As they do wth stagy accident films in driver's ed, readers are likely to shrug this off as just too much to be believed. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 15, 1990

Hoping to prove that she is responsible enough to be left in charge of her four-year-old half-sister, Vicki takes on the new class project with high expectations: she will care for her 5-lb. bag of sugar, "Babe," as if it were a real baby. However, the pressures of being a normal 11-year-old inevitably create conflicts with her good intentions. Babe vanishes from the care of Vicki's hastily appointed babysister—nice but senile Mr. Ambrose—who is so upset by Vicki's subsequent scolding that he too disappears. Stricken by guilt, Vicki is tempted to conceal Babe's loss, as well as her part in Mr. Ambrose's distress; fortunately, her true conscientious nature reasserts itself. Beginning with its engaging title and jacket, this has a lot going for it: an unusually perceptive portrayal of kids on the brink of teen-age concerns, including Vicki's tentative brushes with the new "hunk" next door and a long-time antagonist at school; narrator Vicki, who understands herself pretty well even amid unexpected complications; the charming logic of the sugar-baby project, a nifty exercise in responsibility; and Mom's generous, creative solution to Vicki's understandable wish to spend time with Dad's new daughter. Thoughtful, well-crafted, and sure to be popular. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 24, 1990

A trip through a scary haunted house where ghosts and witches loom, a mummy with a winking eye lies on a bed, a skeleton bunts from a closet, and a vampire sleeps in the bathtub—all described in engaging rhyme: "The roof space is creeping and crawling with things,/Things that have horns and raggedy wings." There are just two observers, indicated only by an occasional glimpse of a hand or a couple of pairs of shoes—until the end, when they turn out to belong to a large male person, who appears to be shaken by his experience, and a small female person, who is eager to go back into this cleverly rigged "Halloween House." Meddaugh's vigorous illustrations add a lot to the fun. A satisfying addition to the Halloween repertoire. Read full book review >
THE WALL by Ronald Himler
Released: April 23, 1990

A young boy visits the Vietnam War Memorial with his father, finds his grandfather's name, and leaves a picture of himself at the wall's base. He sees a legless veteran; an older couple weeping together; a boy and his grandfather walking by; a teacher explaining the wall to her class ("The names are the names of the dead. But the wall is for all of us"), and the small offerings left by others: letters, flowers, a teddy bear. The story is told with a spare, highly charged simplicity; Himler's misty watercolors capture the solemnity of the vast reflecting surface and the pathos of the visitors better than any photo of this difficult-to-represent monument—although his decision to mute its somber black is debatable and using the teddy bear on the title page is an unfortunate choice. Still, a moving introduction. Read full book review >
NO NAP by Susan Meddaugh
illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 23, 1989

With Susie left in his care, Dad spends the afternoon trying to get her tired enough to nap—until Dad falls asleep. Irrepressible Susie is endearingly true to life; Meddaugh's cartoon-like illustrations catch the situation's humor, as well as Mom's consternation when she comes home to a mess—and the still wide-eyed child. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1989

After their mother dies, Matt, 13, and his sister Abby, 5, come to live with their great-aunt Gerda in a canyon near Los Angeles, bringing little except a portfolio of their mother's paintings. In front of Aunt Gerda's ramshackle house are spooky, life-sized figures of children—made for Aunt Gerda by her deceased husband—dressed in real clothes, swaying in the wind. Apparently because they are alarmed by the way Aunt Gerda treats the "dolls" like real children, local people are harassing her, hoping to get her to move. Matt tries to discover who has sent anonymous hate notes and vandalized the dolls; to help out financially, he also tries to sell his mother's paintings, and in doing so discovers the dealer who has stolen two of the figures. Amazingly, a patron appears to declare the figures folk art of great value and to relieve the family of financial worries—without depriving Aunt Gerda of her beloved children. Matt and Abby are believable, their concern for one another both funny and touching. Unfortunately, however, the story's resolution is pat and implausible; and the title here is misleading, since the dolls are not ghostlike enough to create much suspense. For a more intelligent fictional use of senior-citizen-created junk that proves to be valuable as art, see Levin's The Trouble with Gramary (1988). Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1989

Grandma and narrator Anna are planning a wonderful surprise for Dad's birthday. While Mom works late on Wednesdays, Grandma comes over with a mysterious, heavy sack so that they can work together. Dad, who drives a track, comes home just in time for the big day, bringing gifts for his family—a smooth pebble from the desert for Anna's rock collection, a bunch of wild flowers he picked for Mom. These simple gifts are received with real appreciation, but the best is yet to come: Anna, who at seven has just learned to read, has also taught Grandma to read well enough so that she reads The Velveteen Rabbit aloud after the birthday cake. Bunting includes just the right details to bring this nice family to three-dimensional life. Carrick provides well-individualized, affectionate visual interpretations of the characters and a familiar-looking, unpretentious but cozy home in his familiar watercolor style. A heartwarming, inspiring story; readers may well find that when his mother's accomplishment brings tears of joy to Dad's eyes, there are tears in theirs as well. Read full book review >
IS ANYBODY THERE? by Eve Bunting
Released: Oct. 1, 1988

A suspense story starring a 13-year-old latchkey kid. When Marcus Mullin can't find his housekey in its usual place, it is only the first of many suspicious events. His mom, working overtime during the Christmas rush, doesn't notice the missing alarm dock, the mysterious clumps of grass in the downstairs bathroom, or the shrinking leftover meatloaf. Marcus suspects Nick, their tenant, but soon admits that he's really uncomfortable with Nick's growing interest in his mom. Finally, on Christmas Eve, Marcus confronts the mysterious intruder and discovers Nick's son—who disappeared six years before with his mother in a divorce/custody dispute. Although not labeled as high interest/low vocabulary, Marcus' story successfully incorporates all the necessary elements. Better readers may find the pace a bit slow, but all will empathize with Marcus' dread of confronting an empty house alone. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 19, 1988

A moving fictional presentation of the perilous voyage of a group of Caribbean refugees to this country. When the soldiers come, the narrator and his little sister hide under the bed, but they can see the soldiers' muddy boots. When they're gone, Father says, "We must leave right now. . .Because we do not think the way they think." Leaving behind their most cherished possessions, the little family boards a small, crowded fishing boat with other refugees. The motor fails; men from their own country shoot at them; traveling under sail, they find their food and water running out, mid people are ill. Thieves arrive by boat to take the little they have; on one shore, soldiers give them fruit but will not let them land. At last, on Thanksgiving Day, the refugees arrive in America, giving thanks for being free and safe at last—and believing that they can stay. Peck's beautiful full-color, double-spread illustrations capture the dignity and humanity of these humble folk, the somber night sky, and the sweep of the sea. A fine companion to Barbara Cohen's Molly's Pilgrim for broadening the Thanksgiving message—and a compassionate depiction of the plight of many of our recent would-be immigrants. Read full book review >
Released: April 10, 1988

A moving piece of Americana from a veteran team (Fly Away Home, 1992, etc.), introducing the orphan trains of the 19th and early 20th century to a picture-book audience. Marianne narrates; she's among 14 children from the orphanages and streets of New York City who are being shipped to the "New West" of Illinois and Iowa in search of good homes. At stop after stop her traveling mates are chosen, some clearly for their strength and usefulness, others for their looks. Marianne is neither strong nor pretty and is repeatedly passed over. Secretly she has promised herself that her mother would be at one of the stops to meet her. In the end she is taken in by a nice, elderly couple who readers know will treat her well. Himler's lovely watercolor and gouache paintings express both the loneliness and hope of the children in scene after scene of the rugged new country. A reminder that the good old days were not so idyllic; this book will have a place in the history curriculum, but it's also an involving read-aloud.Jesse Harmon's struggle to cope with the death of his younger brother, Bry, in a hit-and-run accident is complicated by his sense of guilt for having failed to prevent the accident and by his relationship with Bry's girl, Chloe. Jesse had been close to Bry, a talented 16-year-old whose deafness contributed to his death. Trying to deal with their grief, Jesse and Chloe collaborate in a search for the killer; working together, they feel a mutual attraction. Bunting skillfully creates suspense through an elusive witness (a local wino) and a false lead (a young drunk who can't remember whether he killed Bry). When the clues lead inexorably to Chloe's alcoholic mother, Jesse finds himself forced, with her acquiescence, to hurt Chloe by making the truth public. Despite the suspenseful pacing, Bunting handles Jesse and Chloe's relationship with sensitivity. By including several minor characters whose alcoholism is pivotal to the plot, she emphasizes the tragedy that alcohol can inflict on innocent bystanders and other family members. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1987

In welcome contrast to the many books like There's a Nightmare in My Closet, here's a realistic story about the resolution of nighttime fears. When the boy narrator wakes, it's dark and the wind is howling. When the lights don't work, he and dog Biff set out to find his parents—but their bed is empty. Everything seems scary in the dark house; but each time a new fear looms, the boy figures out what is frightening him—tree branches against the window, the clock striking twelve. Then his own image, carrying the white dog, gleams out of the mirror and so startles him that he cries out, which rouses his parents—kept awake by the banging branches, they were sleeping downstairs on the sofa. Candles and a good four-in-a-bed snuggle make a cozy conclusion; though the boy has dealt sensibly with all his fears, it's comforting to know where his parents are. Carrick's dark scenes are painted with his usual sure touch, making the familiar believably spooky as lit by a full moon through the breaking clouds of a storm-filled sky. A pleasant story about self-reliance; sure to be useful. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 20, 1986

Strong, clear pictures in vivid autumnal colors provide the setting for a troupe of traditional creatures—skeleton, ghost, vampire, werewolf, witches, goblins, gremlins, devil, and even a creature in a winding sheet—cavorting about for Halloween. Spookily evocative three-line rhymes describe each one. The creatures are observed by four pairs of green eyes that never stir from their hiding place until the parade has passed; then, out from under the porch come three kittens and their mother who do their own cavorting every night. From the delightfully decorative endpapers to the road lined with jack-o'-lanterns on every post, younger listeners will get a foretaste of trick or treating. A good book to read aloud between visitors on that special scary night. Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 1986

This companion volume to Karen Kepplewhite is the World's Best Kisser takes another breezy look at preteen life. Seventh-grader Janet panics when she discovers that her two best friends have dates to her school's year-end dance. Nothing could be more humiliating than to go to the dance dateless and land in the "dog pen." Janet invents an "older man" to accompany her, and tries unsuccessfully to get her brother's best friend to fill the role. At the last minute she is saved from embarrassment when Rolf, the new boy in town, accepts her invitation. And when Rolf becomes the star of the evening with his drum performance, Janet basks happily in reflected glory. Meanwhile, Janet's mother passes through a crisis of her own, as phone calls to an answering-machine Adonis encourage her back into circulation after a post-divorce slump. Not much is new here in the way. of plot, but middle readers will latch on to this lighthearted book. The writing is smooth and the characters appealing. Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 1986

A part of the Bunting/Brett holiday picture book series, the painless, if obvious, story of what three mice give their mother on her day. Biggest Little Mouse and his two brothers, Middle and Little, go on a hunt for presents. Biggest finds a fluffball; Middle, a strawberry. Little's plans, however, are ruined when a cat prevents him from gathering honeysuckles. Although his brothers offer to share their presents with him, Little comes up with his own solution: a Mother's Day song sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Sharp dialogue distinguishes one mouse from the other and adds an edge to an otherwise saccharine plot. Brett's illustrations crowd frames with detail, some of it eccentric (mice dressed like Russian peasants?), most of it effective. In all, a warmly utilitarian holiday book Read full book review >
Released: April 15, 1984

No folk-tale inevitability, only the merest figment of Eastern imagination—but an amusing bit of buffoonery, lightly cartooned to match. Neighbors Mohammed and Hashim, once friends, are now coconut-picking rivals—"since Mohammed got his monkey and Hashim got his bicycle." The monkey picks Mohammed's coconuts, while Hashim toils; but the bicycle carries Hashim's coconuts, while Mohammed and the monkey trudge. Then the monkey revolts, plays sick—and sympathetic Hashim ("I have nothing against the monkey, only the monkey's master") carries the monkey, and Mohammed, to the doctor on his bicycle. (Mohammed: "I would take nothing from you for myself, but this I will accept on behalf of my monkey.") While they're all at the doctor's, Hashim's bicycle is stolen. The monkey's acrobatics then draw an appreciative crowd; he presents their coins to Hashim—"in return," Mohammed explains, 'flor the loss of your bicycle"; and as the two head home, carrying the monkey in the middle, they seal a bargain to go partners. Amiable and nimble, if featherweight. Read full book review >
Released: April 29, 1983

The title and the cover, with the three unglamorous traveling men jigging and waving merrily in a meadow, tell you what to expect from Bunting's brogue-laden tale of the three musicians—Cathal wailing out "The Hunt" on a penny whistle, Sean "bent near in two" over his fiddle, and Young Jimmy playing the melodeon—who travel about, calling all Ireland home, and never stop to marry. "Didn't they have all they needed in each other, with their music to share and a royal welcome wherever they went?" But the years go by without a notice and finally, when even Young Jimmy is close to 70, the three retire to their cottage in Ballycoo, settling in well and playing their music at night. "But there was something wanting"—and no sooner does Cathal recognize what they need—an audience to share the music—than up goes a welcome sign on the door that draws all the neighbors in for a nightly party at home. And "Don't we still go places every night of our lives," asks Cathal, referring to the illusions conjured up by their music. Fair enough, and sufficiently well turned, with Zemach's dancing, gesturing figures and floating musical notes sustaining the lilt—but there's a bit of a tired, machine-made air to the story, and the pictures too seem simply to be supplying what's called for. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1983

For just one moment, lightning almost strikes: Mrs. Bear, settling in for the winter, set the alarm early—for February 14—so she and Mr. Bear could, for once, celebrate Valentine's Day. But when she rises, goes out in the unaccustomed cold, and prepares a Valentine breakfast for Mr. Bear, he won't be awakened and he won't get up. So what does this loving, Valentine-proferring spouse do? She goes for a can of ice water—whereupon Mr. Bear springs up and hugs her and says it was all a joke, he even had a present (chocolate-covered ants) tucked away and waiting. Now if she had let him go back to sleep, that would have been true love. A banal conceit, and unappealing pictures. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1982

It's hard to reconcile the Eve Bunting of, say, The Happy Funeral (p. 867, J-181) with the author of crude teenage suspensers like The Waiting Game and this. Vicki West and Ted Clark, two of the 13 victims of auto accidents at Departure Point, meet as ghosts and fall in love. ("It was almost as good as being alive," says narrator Vicki.) Both are haunting the site, they realize, because they were to blame for the accidents they were in and for the death of others. But if they atone for their guilt—the way fellow-ghost Rebecca does for the unrelated accident-death of her son—their ghostly existences will end and they'll lose each other. So: should they or should they not try to prevent further accidents at Departure Point? And suppose the town decides independently to straighten the hazardous road: "Maybe we'll be off the hook, because we at least tried." Apart from the conundrums (and an ingenious balloon-stunt), altogether flat—and tacky even so. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1982

The rightness of death for the deceased, the painfulness for the survivors—conveyed with exceptional directness in the context of an unfamiliar culture. The reader will immediately wonder, with small narrator Laura, how Grandfather can have a "happy funeral"; as older sister May-May protests, "It's like saying a sad party. Or hot snow. It doesn't make sense." But as the Chinese-American leave-taking unfolds, each custom falls into meaningful place. At the funeral parlor, relatives lay gifts in the casket. Mom's is food "for Grandfather's journey": soy beans, lichee nuts, and, at Laura's suggestion, chocolate chip cookies. Play money, burned, "will be real when it turns into smoke and rises to the spirit world." May-May and Laura have drawn pictures to alight—Laura of Chang, "a dog my grandfather had when he was a boy." (When Chang turns to flame, Laura cries—first, ashamedly, for Chang; then for Grandfather himself.) The funeral brings speeches, recollections, tears; the funeral procession is a fanfare: two cars of flowers, with Grandfather's picture atop the first; a marching, tootling band. ("You'd never guess it was hymns, all jazzed up like this!") But at the cemetery: "Tears are running down Mom's face." The band stops playing. And at the graveside, Laura links her Grandfather's smiling visage with her mother's baffling words. "She never said it was happy for us to have him go." The light-fingered, gray-toned pencil-and-wash drawings display the same combination of sensitivity, economy, and finesse. Read full book review >
THE EMPTY WINDOW by Judy Clifford
Released: Oct. 15, 1981

In a slim volume of picture-book dimensions is a seventh-grader's story of catching a wild parrot for a dying friend—a mismatch that would doom the book even if it were worthier than it is. C.G.'s brief narrative, however, is all problem, portent, and patent symbolism. He's been staying away from dying buddy Joe; and now, having heard Joe's mother say he's "obsessed with the parrots" and has only "another day or two" to live, he's determined to catch one. When he does, with brother Sweeney's help, Joe asks him to release the bird. . . "and I look at Joe, and the whole of him is straining toward the sweep of the birds and his body is pulling, trying to get outside of itself, and I understand suddenly, and I know why he's obsessed with the parrots and why he doesn't want this one to be caged." C.G. has also come to recognize that "I'd wanted to get Joe a parrot to keep him company so I wouldn't have to." To his relief, however, Joe is still himself; and the two talk about the upcoming baseball season; he'll be back the next day, he tells Joe; but that night Joe dies. Though dread of the dying is natural enough, nothing else here is—down to the heavily shadowed, doom-laden, black-and-white pictures. Read full book review >
GOOSE DINNER by Howard Knotts
Released: Sept. 8, 1981

A string of anecdotes about Goose—"the terror of our backyard"—that does ultimately turn into a story of sorts. . . but never does sound as if it were written as an easy-reader: the overall structure is too loose, the sentence-structure is too idiosyncratic, the words are too out-of-the-way ("farrier," "demented")—and there are quite a few contractions. But the situation, if hardly original, is rather nicely handled: after we've heard about all the ways Goose terrorizes everyone but Mother (and heard Dad's threats to turn him into "goose dinner"), raccoon gets' into the hen coop and Goose, no friend of Hen's ordinarily, gallantly fights the raccoon off—assisted, soon, by Dad. Goose is wounded and submissive ("I didn't think that was a good sign"); but by next morning he's out again chasing Hen. "It sure was nice to know everything was back to normal." A little too offhand altogether for the ostensible purpose, unfortunately. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1981

A 46-page, short-story-scope record of the day Los Angeles high-school football player Luther spends waiting for an offer from Ohio State. Luther and his two friends Griff and Dan, all seniors, are the Chalmers High stars known as "the three from C." Dan, who is deaf, will be playing for Queens, the local junior college, but the other two are holding out for the big time. The St. Francis star, they hear, got a Buckeye offer by phone yesterday; and now, arriving home from school, Griff gets one in the mail. Luther is out when his phone call comes that night, and everyone has heard about it before the coach calls back next day. . . to explain personally that Luther is just too small for the Buckeyes. Embarrassed, Luther lets people think he's turned down Ohio State to support Dan at Queens (at Chalmers, Luther has tapped out the signals to him)—but he owns up when that embarrasses Dan. Later, though, when a full-tuition offer comes from San Diego State ("semi-big time college ball"), Luther tears up the letter. "It had nothing to do with big old Dan, Luther told himself. Nothing whatever," are the story's final words. Except for the "hecks" and "shoots" which make Luther seem pretty square, the brevity and situational suspense might suit this as a hi-lo entry. However, the two-bit characterization doesn't prepare readers to accept that final goody-goody decision. Read full book review >
YESTERDAY'S ISLAND by Stephen Gammell
Released: Nov. 15, 1980

One-dimensional, one-note hokum. Before he was born, Kama's Polynesian mother and Irish father were banished from his mother's native island of Milanao off the Hawaiian mainland. His mother died soon after his birth, of an unspecified illness, and his father is now dead too, in an accident that "totaled [his] bike and himself." This small novel, short on pages but long on plot, follows Kama, twelve-years-old and big for his age, on a journey of revenge to kill the tyrannical Mrs. Sommers, the banisher, whose family owned the island for generations and thought they owned the people on it. Kama's dinghy sinks three miles from Milanao, but he is resuced by a boatman who knew his mother. Left sleeping, Kama awakens and makes his way to the big house. And there, all alone in the kitchen reading, is Mrs. Sommers, now old and frail, who welcomes him smilingly: Well it wasn't his mother who was banished; it was his father, a troublemaker. "She could have come back," but not he. All this is too much for Kama who puts the knife to the woman's throat but "couldn't kill her." Still angry, he destroys a little property instead. "Times change," says the boatman returning for him and taking him back to the mainland where adoptive parents await. A drag. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 24, 1980

This begins with the world flashing negative (black is white, etc.), as in a scarier Shirley Jackson story; then it has robot duplicates from space replace John's girlfriend and seven other people in Cloverdale (a motif familiar from some well-known blockbusters and less-known duds); and it ends with a simple tribute to love that could only mark a juvenile version. At first, after the flash, John doesn't understand girlfriend Cindy's peculiar behavior; but when his Gramps hears about her little black box-and then sees small animals (flies too) drop like flies when it's turned on—he has it all figured out, except why. So Gramps and John plot to unmask the eight aliens; and when John confronts the fake Cindy he persuades her to reverse the switch and learns that the not-so-sinister intruders had come down just to learn about human feelings. Why did they pick Cloverdale? Because there's so much love there, explains the stand-in Cindy, a tear trickling down her "molded" face after John's kiss. Run-of-the-pod. Read full book review >
Released: April 17, 1980

Mom makes the robot as a birthday gift for twins Pam and Kerry shortly after she's divorced and they've moved to a new house. ("Mom's smart.") In the first episode here, the robot's appearance saves the twins' lagging birthday party and wins them neighborhood friends. In the second, it scares off a bad gang of older boys who've taken over the local park; and in a third, its big, shiny presence on the road saves other motorists after Mom and the twins, en route to grandmother's house for Christmas, come upon a bridge washed away by a storm. Despite De John's dreary one-color pictures, there is laugh potential in the sight of the playground bad gang sticking out their tongues and growling in compliance with the robot's orders. (The robot is playing back an exercise program taped by the twins' sitter.) Otherwise, pretty flat. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1980

A large, elaborate production in the revivalist mode—double-page spreads in color, single-page, decoratively framed drawings in black and white—all more or less from the Maxfield Parrish era. And a long-drawn-out story with legendary trappings about a prince who yearns for the sea—dirty and dangerous, says his father, fit only for commoners—and how he learns from the young diver Demetrius that the vision is truer than the reality: a blind man had evoked the sea's beauty for the prince, Demetrius sees only sea slime. Fancy furbelows, an empty core. Read full book review >
Released: March 31, 1980

To Mom, the blackbirds are something to watch with rapture and dream of painting. To Dad, they're ruining his corn crop and must be destroyed. And so when the county agent sends a pest specialist in to do the job, Marcus' parents fight—just as they fought at Christmas when Dad "slaughtered" a tree to trim. And, just as at Christmas, Marcus' stuttering breaks out. As Marcus and the smart new psychiatrist come to realize, he feels like a "wishbone," pulled between his parents. There are a few more strands which help as fillers, but don't add dimension. For example, the doctor who had worked with Marcus on the stutter is part of the problem, as Marcus knows she wants Dad to ditch Mom and take up with her. If the issue between the parents weren't so stereotyped, or if the mother were more fully characterized or less of a twit (Marcus' good memory involves her fanciful vision of a unicorn), then the son's problems might seem more than a textbook sketch. Read full book review >
Released: March 19, 1980

An earnest fable that is too ponderous and too shadowy to be effective. It opens with the small forest creatures, content in the clearing "until the day the Terrible Things came." Rabbit sees their Terrible shadows, which loom like the shadows of huge human busts, as the Terrible Things announce that they have come for "every creature with feathers on its back." "We don't have feathers," clamor the frogs, the squirrels, the porcupines, the rabbits, and the fish; and so only the birds are taken this time. The other creatures, relieved to be spared, don't much care, though Little Rabbit asks them, "What's wrong with feathers?" But of course the Terrible Things come back. . . first for the bushy-tailed, next for the swimmers, and so on until everyone is gone except (unrealistically) for Little Rabbit, who has hidden in a pile of rocks. "If only we creatures had stuck together, it would have been different," says Little Rabbit sadly, making Bunting's point clear but not its application. Who or what are the Terrible Things in a small child's world? (Their own answer might be parents and teachers.) And how can children gang tip against them? Kids will probably be able to parrot the lesson, but without a lot of pulling and prodding, will they relate to it? And if so, how? Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1980

Somewhere in Ireland, on Saint Patrick's day in the morning, Jamie wakes up early, resenting that he's too small to walk in the parade. So he dons his mother's raincoat, his father's hat, and his brother's green sash, takes another brother's flute, and with his dog Nell marches about in his own parade. Along the way Hobble the Hen Man gives him an egg, Mrs. Simms at the sweet shop (open early, it seems) gives him some ginger ale and a wee flag, he enjoys his drink on the parade's-end platform set up for the day's festivities, and then heads home with proud thoughts of the music he's played. Other small children might enjoy sharing underdog Jamie's secret, while sharing at the same time the author's pointed skepticism as to the beauty of his music. But they are unlikely to see the outing as much of a lark. Bunting tries too hard for color and imagery without supplying any narrative structure or incidents; and Brett's green and black drawings are just drab. Read full book review >
THE BIG RED BARN by Howard Knotts
Released: April 23, 1979

A tenuous construct, barely a story, with none of the usual aids or lures for a beginning reader. The first-person narrator sets up the situation in disconnected offhand remarks about the family's beloved big red barn; sister Susie's pet goat, a rooster, a barn owl, and a nest of kangaroo rats (denizens of the barn); his new, resented stepmother and "the hayloft where I went when Mom died." Then, without warning, the barn burns down—and the question becomes whether its shiny aluminum replacement can actually take the old barn's place. The narrator resists; but, says wise Grandpa, "The new barn has to make its own place. It will if we give it a chance." That's a sidelong reference to stepmother Emma, seen in affectionate consort with Susie on the page before (and in the picture opposite); but the inference is both too fragile and too facile to make this diffuse mood-piece into a satisfactory story—even if it weren't an easy reader. Read full book review >
WINTER'S COMING by Howard Knotts
Released: April 7, 1977

An even-toned catalog of the preparations for winter observed by a small boy and girl around their farm. Cows are growing thick coats, the corn husks are thicker too, ducks and swans fly South, and the daddy-longlegs are coming indoors. The people, too, are getting ready—Dad chopping wood, Grandpa making sleds, Grandma knitting mittens, and Mother putting up preserves—and everyone is citing omens of a long hard winter. "Good," says the little boy. "I hope winter comes soon." Not resonant enough to be memorable, this does strike a quiet, expectant note, and though Knotts' scratchy, cross-hatched, winter-gray drawings lack the poetry of his illustrations for Barnstone's A Day in the Country (1971), they do their share to maintain the tone. Read full book review >
THE BIG CHEESE by Eve Bunting
Released: Feb. 28, 1977

The Misses Tillie and Bee Culpepper buy a big cheese one day, but cheese attracts mice. . . so they buy a cat. . .the cat wants milk. . . so they buy a cow. . . the cow needs grass. . . so they buy a meadow. . . and onward and downward into terminal ennui. Tillie speaks solely in proverbs—"Where there's a will there's a way, and ali's well that ends well"—a comic device carried to a heavy-handed extreme. Bee is the more fevered, but ultimately hollow-sounding enthusiast: "A pig! A pink, shiny pig with curly corkscrew tail, a pig to love!" The illustrations are pleas-ant enough but captioned with more platitudes. Boring. Read full book review >
ONE MORE FLIGHT by Diane deGroat
Released: March 15, 1976

A chronic runaway from foster homes and from the Center where he's spent most of his eleven years, Dobby is lucky enough on his latest flight to be picked up by nineteen-year-old Timmer who lives in a barn and takes care of injured birds for the Audubon Society. To Dobby's disappointment, Timmer sends him back to the Home; but meanwhile the two become friends, and Dobby learns something he can apply to his own situation as he comes to understand why Timmer won't release the birds until they're "ready." The parallels are too transparently contrived to be as effective as they should be, tho Bunting does do better with the textures of Dobby's sojourn than with the outline. One more diluted Dorp Dead? Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1975

In the town of Conn in the County of Cork there lived two bakers and both were named Barney. So, to tell them apart, the townspeople called the one Barney the Baker and the other Barney the Beard." The trouble is that old Barney the Baker would rather fish than bake, and the talented young Barney the Beard covets his title. Shaving off his beard however only earns him the name Barney the Bush, and when he then shaves his head too he's called Barney the Bald. Only after he has shut up his shop in a funk is his problem resolved, with a limousined official arriving to award the young man (now Barney the Bristle as his hair is growing back) first prize for the Carrick Castle cake competition and the title of Barney the Master Baker. A fluffy diversion, light as those drop biscuits Barney has to weigh down to keep them from floating away. Read full book review >