Books by Gillian McClure

CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

Plainly told, these nine Korean folktales include some well-known tales found in the relatively small number of other picture books and anthologies available in English. "The Herdsman and the Weaver" is known in many versions from several Asian countries, including China and Japan, and tells the story of two lovers in the heavens, separated the whole year round until a bridge of magpies forms over the Milky Way to allow them to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month. The title story is the tale of a blind man's loving daughter, who sacrifices herself to the depths of the sea, the Dragon King's watery realm, to earn 300 bags of rice to restore her father's sight. His vision is only returned at a later time when his daughter is allowed to return to the earth. The tiger, a recurring character in Korean stories, appears in two tales, fooled by the ever-popular trickster, Rabbit. McClure's watercolor illustrations were inspired by sketches done on a trip to Korea; realistic earth tones vie with the fantastical brighter colors of the heavens and the undersea kingdom. A solid, if additional, purchase. (introduction, bibliography) (Folklore. 6-9)Read full book review >
MARIO’S ANGELS by Mary Arrigan
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

Mario is a little boy, with a dog, who hovers around the artist Giotto as he paints a fresco of the Nativity in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy in the 13th century. When Father Prior comes in to say Giotto's sky is dull, Giotto is upset, but Mario brings him the idea of his little sister Bianca as an angel. Giotto sketches a dancing, frolicking Mario as an angel, fills his Nativity sky with angels and everyone is pleased. While the text and notes mention how Giotto made his figures look real, as if they moved about and had expression, it does so at the expense of describing earlier painting as stiff and emotionless. The idea of perspective or of changing views of how art reflects humanity isn't mentioned at all, and it could be, even at this level. Greeting-card images of late medieval life—and that puppy—reinforce the cute at the expense of the story. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
TOM FINGER by Gillian McClure
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

In McClure's (Selkie, 1999, etc.) wintry and whimsical tale a girl mourns her dead cat in spite of her brother's protests. Everyday in front of her house, Queenie calls for her late Tabby, but Ben, her cynical little brother, rebukes her. "Stop calling your Tabby, he won't come back!" yells Ben, but Queenie persists. Instead, another Tabby named Tom Finger shows up. Tom, an enormous upright cat with popping blue eyes and long gangly limbs, intrigues Queenie. He frightens Ben, though, and younger readers may agree with him. When she asks the cat where he's from, her brother calls out, "Somewhere spooky!" and the odd feline disappears. In the days that follow, Tom Finger returns and tries to woo Queenie with little gifts. But her brother, who's convinced he's a "witches cat," drives him away. When Tom brings her an unraveling wool shawl, Queenie finally breaks free from her brother's paranoid warnings and follows the yarn. He safely leads her like a guardian angel through the icy woods to a blind old woman's house full of kittens. The woman thanks Queenie for returning her things (which apparently Tom Finger had swiped) and gives her a kitten to take home. There's a lot of what and not a lot of why, as the themes of grief, trust, and courage cloud together. McClure's formal prose also tries too hard to sound like an old-fashioned fairy tale, but her swooping and passionate watercolors do entertain. Little audiences will probably find the ending worth some confusion for the adorable little kittens that appear at the old woman's house. An erratic adventure with compelling moments. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE CHRISTMAS DONKEY by Gillian McClure
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 15, 1993

The gifted illustrator of several of her father Paul Coltman's books (Witch Watch, 1989) relates a simple tale of her own, one with unusual resonance. Arod, orneriest of three donkeys belonging to a dealer, is the last to be sold—in fact, the man is so eager to be rid of him that he gives him to Joseph. With his heart set on bearing a king, the donkey has no thoughts of reform, but each prank—lunging toward a patch of tasty thistles, rearing at a falling star—is miraculously transformed; his sudden maneuvers save Mary from a lion or a snake. His burden, too, seems to grow lighter; and though there's so little room in the crowded stable that he has to nip an ox to find space to kneel, the baby rewards this rapidly mellowing sinner with a smile. In her elegantly mannered paintings, McClure uses motifs from several historical periods, subtly integrating Fra Angelico's rosy towers and the dramatic reverence of 17th-century Spanish figures with her freer brushwork and more contemporary palette. Lovely. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
TINKER JIM by Paul Coltman
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

The gifted father-daughter team that created Tog the Ribber or Granny's Tale (1985, ALA Notable) and Witch Week (1989) takes on a stock British character. Tinker Jim camps in a chicken house and helps himself to food where he can, but scorns ``roast rook'' and ``stinging nettle soup''—and ``grub'' offered by a sanctimonious vicar (``I can't eat that. Give it back to the cat''). Discovering a well-stocked freezer in a stately home, he develops sophisticated tastes, washing down his lobster with Lafitte '82. One thing leads to another: he decides to wash, snitches his Lordship's pinstripe, and is nabbed; after six months behind bars, he's back to old clothes with a rabbit in the pot. Unlike Coltman's splendid earlier books, the verse here is accessible to young Americans, but it lacks the pungent music of before; and the homeless tinker will be a problematic hero for some—though he's a feisty old codger who learned his trade from his dad, looks after himself pretty well, and gets largely what he deserves. Meanwhile, the paintings are exquisite. Combining several scenes or points of view—each blending into the next—to border the text or an illustration, McClure details the tinker's ambiance and activities with satirical wit mellowed by compassion. A mixed effort with some delightful strengths. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >