Books by Gail de Marcken

CLEVER ALI by Nancy Farmer
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Ali has turned seven years old, and has taken the first step on the road to manhood: He's learning to be a royal pigeon-keeper like his father. Every morning, Ali and his father set out through the streets of Cairo to the palace of the wicked and cruel Sultan. There, father cares for all of the Sultan's pigeons and Ali cares for one, whom he names Othman. Father has only one rule for Ali: never to overfeed Othman or he will become spoiled and selfish. But Ali saves all of his desserts for Othman, because the pigeon loves them so. Alas, greedy Othman steals a cherry from the dreaded Sultan, and clever Ali must use all his wits to avoid being thrown into the Sultan's demon-inhabited oubliette. De Marcken's jewel-like watercolors adorned with Arabic calligraphy and mosaic patterns are well suited to this sweet and gently humorous tale. Though the text is lengthy for this format, it is replete with silly sound effects for a fun one-on-one read-aloud. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2005

Billowing, jewel-toned patterns illuminate this visually and verbally lush prequel to The Quiltmaker's Gift (2001). Having never had a want or whim go unsatisfied, a young woman—engagingly portrayed with bouncy, white-ash hair and mobile, expressive hands and features—is shocked to see poverty in the world outside her walled town. Rejecting her town Elders' suggestion that the poor be ignored, she leaves her old life behind and, fed by kindly peasants and wild animals, begins creating quilts to warm the blanketless. As in Brumbeau's prior outing, the tale's language is sometimes overblown—one quilt "had the colors of hopeful mornings and rosy-cheeked children and gardens bursting in bloom." However, de Marcken's art more than compensates with extravagantly detailed scenes into which quilt patterns (named on the endpapers) have been incorporated, along with multi-species flights of birds and romanticized but vivacious human figures. An aerial map printed inside the jacket will be hidden by library processing, but young readers will pore over the rest of the art. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2003

Brumbeau and de Marcken (The Quiltmaker's Gift, 2001) turn their attention from a kindly but determined quilter and a greedy king to a kindly queen and a determined lady who wears a Parisian hat with a live chicken on top. The conventional townspeople are outraged at this fashion faux pas, as their queen is due to arrive for a visit, and they are sure that Miss Hunnicutt and her hat will be an embarrassment. When the queen arrives with her own unusual hat sporting a live turkey, she trades hats with Miss Hunnicutt and invites her to the palace for a party. The townspeople immediately all start wearing hats with various fowl on top, but Miss Hunnicutt, style setter that she is, moves on to an even more unusual hat, with a porcupine to suit her rather prickly nature. De Marcken's busy watercolor illustrations provide lots of amusing details in panoramic views of the old-fashioned town, including a poster-sized representation on the reverse side of the volume's jacket. The endpapers show Miss Hunnicutt trying on an astonishing assortment of hats with living decorations, which might have made an intriguing story themselves. Though the hats with live adornment have a certain amount of appeal, the overly long, somewhat pedantic story fails to convey in a meaningful way the intended message of respecting individual style, and the story's attempts at humor never achieve a satisfying fit. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >