Books by Jane Louise Curry

THE BLACK CANARY by Jane Louise Curry
Released: March 1, 2005

Twelve-year-old biracial James (almost 13) travels 400 years back in time to Elizabethan London in this slow-to-start but ultimately steadily suspenseful historical fantasy. James feels misunderstood, and resents the role that music plays in his family. Reluctantly accompanying his parents to London where his mother is singing with an esteemed period-instrument ensemble, James is drawn to "a faint oval shimmer hanging motionless in midair" in the basement of their flat—a portal to the past. Curry brings history remarkably to life, particularly after James is recruited to the Children of the Chapel Royal, has a part in Ben Jonson's new play Cynthia's Revels and is swept up in preparing a solo for the Queen on Twelfth Night day, discovering how much singing matters to him. The tension between James's increasing involvement in the early 1600s, and his need to maneuver a way back to the present near to when he left will keep young readers turning the pages. Though some aspects of the story feel underdeveloped, Curry makes the life of another era convincingly real. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

Curry (The Egyptian Box, 2002, etc.) has once again produced a stellar collection of Native American tales. Bound by geographical origins, this collection represents tales from 14 tribes and at least five different cultures. The 26 tales are not generally well-known, although some are similar to tales from other tribes. "The Ghost Woman" tells the Kiowa-Apache version of the man who wanders into a tipi that is the burial place of a beautiful woman. She makes herself visible and is allowed to live with him as long as he does not call her "Ghost Woman." Years pass, the couple has a son, and life seems very good. But one day in anger her husband calls her by the forbidden name and she vanishes, as do the husband and the son. In other retellings, this might have been the explanation for the origin of a particular constellation, but not so here. Each of the tales in this collection carries a familiar motif or two but has a variation not widely published. Curry's satisfying retellings are straightforward, with little embellishment, and her end notes concerning the source of each story are interesting and authenticate the collection. Storytellers will value this resource and readers will savor the variety of clever tales. (Folktales. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

Tales from various Southeastern tribes are nicely retold in this collection of 28 stories of creation, caution, how, and why. Each is attributed in its title (and in the table of contents) to its tribe, including Catawba, Chitimacha, Creek, and Tunica and brief historical notes on each tribe are included in the About the Storytellers section, after which Curry (Turtle Island, 1998, etc.) provides sources. She does not describe how she has retold these stories, only that they are retold, sometimes based on more than one version, and sometimes with new titles. The stories are clearly Curry's, as they have a unified voice, and use a Anglicized style of dialogue that will feel natural to most readers, but the content and message seem to be accurate. They vary slightly in length, but are all fairly short; full-page black-and-white illustrations break up the text, if they don't add much to the tales. Curry's voice is rhythmic and humorous, making these stories perfect to tell aloud, and readers will find this collection useful for its specificity. (Folklore. 8+)Read full book review >
THE EGYPTIAN BOX by Jane Louise Curry
Released: March 1, 2001

Tee is resentful, irritable, shy, self-conscious, contrary, and determined to be miserable. In short, she's a fairly typical middle-school-age girl. She is particularly unhappy because her parents have moved the family from Maine to a small desert town upon receiving a substantial inheritance from an eccentric great uncle, who was an expert in Egyptology. He left Tee a shabti, a small box containing a wooden figure that would act as a servant in the afterlife of an entombed princess. When the hieroglyphs on the box are deciphered, the shabti is awakened. Tee is delighted at first, as she commands the shabti to do her chores, her homework, and even go to school for her, while she spends her days at home reading her beloved adventure stories. The shabti becomes more comfortable in Tee's world than Tee is herself and eventually attempts to take her place permanently. Fantasy must be completely logical, and must create in the reader an absolute belief in all the possibilities—and Curry (The Wonderful Sky Boat, 2001, etc.) masters the technique admirably. She makes each incident seem not only plausible, but also inevitable. Tee moves from skepticism to total immersion in the magic, and from pleasure to concern about the shabti's growing power. Along the way she comes to accept her strengths instead of wallowing in her shortcomings and thus achieves a satisfying solution. A well-crafted, unusual, and entertaining voyage. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1999

An engaging collection of 27 authentic tales gathered from the various Algonquian nations, many of which no longer exist. Each of the brief legends includes a notation citing its origin, as well as an accompanying black-and-white illustration. Organized in a rough sequential order, the tales explain how the world came into being, recount acts of bravery, and reveal why animals behave the way that they do. The Objibway tale, "The Great Flood," shows how the world was nearly destroyed by a great flood, caused by the spirits of the underworld. The companion story from the LenapÇ, "Turtle Island," recounts how the Earth was reclaimed after the torrential floods: all of the animals gathered on an immense turtle's back, which spread the new dirt that formed Earth. "Rainbow Crow," also from the LenapÇ, shows how not even the great creator could stop snow from falling, that the Snow Spirit has to follow the Wind Spirit to the east, and that the crow became black from the selfless act of carrying fire to earth. Beautifully conceived and executed, this collection renews the old stories, giving them immediacy for contemporary readers. (Folklore. 9-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Continuing the tale begun in Robin Hood and His Merry Men (1994, not reviewed), Curry introduces Friar Tuck and Marian by having both of them battle Robin to a draw, sends the merry men out to trick and frustrate the Sheriff of Nottingham repeatedly, and brings Robin and the king (Richard, presumably, though he's never named) together. Readers will need to know who Robin, Will Scarlet, Little John, and Much are, as their adventures are picked up in full career, but the author writes with less-practiced readers in mind, expressing Robin's stubborn sense of what's right and fair in simple, clear language, and adding a glossary at the end. Despite a pitched battle or two, the characters here are so much more wont to feast than fight that it practically becomes a running joke. Curry expertly captures the tone of traditional versions in this vigorous, good-humored rendition. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction/folklore. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 29, 1993

Retelling a story found in ``a fifteenth-century manuscript in the Advocates Library in Edinburgh,'' Curry shows her way with words: ``Good Sir Cleges housed the homeless. He fed the foodless. He helped the hapless.'' Eventually, the good knight's feasts for the poor drive him and his family end into poverty. One wintry day, after Sir Cleges humbles himself by admitting he loved the praise gained by his good works, a blessing befalls him—a cherry bough laden with fruit, which he carries to King Uther. Thus he becomes the ``Christmas Knight,'' whose charity is sponsored by royalty. DiSalvo-Ryan's watercolors offer more depth and detail than usual in her work; her evocation of the setting is quite nice, though she flattens the perspective abruptly on one page (some of the merry folk in the foreground are smaller than people in the background). Also, the furniture in this scene is placed differently two pages later. For those who can overlook such idiosyncrasies: a fine first taste of knightly valor. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: April 30, 1993

The saga from The Big Smith Snatch (1989) continues with a satisfying story that's sure to generate requests for the earlier book. The five lively Smith children and their father arrive in Pittsburgh from California, where their mother is awaiting the birth of number six. But life in their grandmother's welcoming old home is soon interrupted: it's been sold, they're being evicted, and she knows nothing about it. The whole neighborhood pulls together with the children to uncover a scam—now operating for the third time in 20 years—to defraud elderly citizens of their homes. Coupling accidental discoveries with shrewd detective work, the group eventually unmasks the local ``Wicked Witch'' and her Rumpelstiltskinesque lodger for the frauds they are. Each child is a distinct, likable person, though five-year- old Babba's precocity can stretch credulity. There's a richly individual supporting cast; the setting is carefully drawn; and, in true Curry style, the zippy plot, general good humor, and nail-biting suspense make this a real page-turner. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
WHAT THE DICKENS! by Jane Louise Curry
Released: Oct. 30, 1991

During Charles Dickens's 1842 US journey, Cherry Dobbs, 11, overhears thieves planning to steal the manuscript of his latest book in order to print a pirated edition. She sets out to foil them, and there's a rapid-fire chase conducted mostly on the Dobbs family's freighter and other boats on Pennsylvania's Juniata Canal. After the illiterate malefactors steal the wrong book, they manage to imprison spunky Cherry and her twin, Sam, and then to rectify their mistake. Their triumph is short-lived: the twins escape, follow on a showboat, expose the thieves, and recover the book; riding a swift new packet and then a train over the Alleghenies, the kids are once again apprehended by the now- escaped thieves before Cherry cleverly saves the manuscript and they finally return it to its author. Some of the to-ing and fro-ing can be confusing, and the folks who make their living plying the canal in barges and other horse-drawn craft are a little romanticized; but the various forms of transportation are worked into the rip-roaring adventure without too much ostentation, effectively bringing to life an interesting piece of social history. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >