Books by France Brassard

CURTAIN UP! by Dirk McLean
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 14, 2010

In a generic but encouraging way, McLean and Brassard take an aspiring (fictional) child actor named Amaya through typical stages from early auditions and rehearsals for a plainly low-budget professional stage production to Opening Night and subsequent rave reviews. The painted compositions are sometimes static, and the multicultural cast and crew are often posed not making eye contact with anyone, but the illustrator gives Amaya, who looks biracial, distinctive features and an appropriately big personality. Also, though the production develops with unrealistic smoothness, McLean, an experienced actor, does tuck a case of stage fright and a few tricks for memorizing lines and the like into his brief, upbeat narrative. Theatrical jargon (feeding, as in a line; dry) is indicated in italics, and a "Cast of Characters" at the beginning introduces such specialized figures as dramaturges, lighting designers and producers. Good fodder for dreamers; serious young thespians will benefit from the more specific and practical likes of Lise Friedman's Break a Leg! The Kids' Book of Acting and Stagecraft (2002) or Thomas Schumacher and Jeff Kurtti's How Does the Show Go On (2007). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
SOMETIMES WE WERE BRAVE by Pat Brisson
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2010

As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, more families will face the difficult separation that comes with military service. While war isn't explicitly mentioned here, the mom in the story is a sailor in the Navy and the impact of her absence is strongly felt. Narrated by her son, who appears to be early-elementary age, the focus is on the things that happen while she's away. Jerome's father does his best to soothe his fears and spend quality time with him. Jerome, meanwhile, tries to fulfill his mother's request that he "be brave," though his inner turmoil sometimes prompts bad behavior. Brisson's lengthy text is straightforward and clearly intended to reassure young children in similar situations. Breaking the text into sections helps the flow while also making the passing of time apparent. Brassard's watercolor illustrations are realistic with a varied perspective that adds interest. Faces are occasionally awkwardly proportioned, but Jerome's dog Duffy is uniformly appealing, and his presence helps to lighten the overall mood. Earnest and effective. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
LILY AND THE MIXED-UP LETTERS by Deborah Hodge
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 13, 2007

A rather shallow treatment of reading difficulties is the focus of Hodge's second work of fiction. Lily's strength is her artistic ability, but in second grade, the emphasis is on reading, and Lily just can't get the hang of it as "letters dance and blur in front of her eyes." After her teacher announces that the students will be reading a page aloud on Parent's Day, Lily finally confides in her mother. Lily's friend Grace becomes her reading buddy, while Lily helps Grace with her painting. Lily practices her page, almost to the exclusion of all else, making songs out of the words, repeating them over and over and drawing them in the air. When it is her turn, she makes some mistakes and isn't as fast or as smooth as the other kids, but she reads the whole page and fairly beams with pride. Brassard's lifelike watercolors tenderly show Lily's every emotion as she struggles with learning to read. But ultimately, Hodge's text is missing the depth and feeling of Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >