Books by Jill Kastner

MY BUSY DAY by Jill Davis
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

From dawn to dusk, a young child describes her eventful day. Davis skillfully captures the topsy-turvy world of a preschooler living and coping with a house full of children, working parents, and daycare. From finding her favorite purple underwear to her morning ritual of kissing the kitty goodbye, sprightly rhymes take readers on a merry tour of the child's day, encompassing routines that are easily familiar: circle-time, nap-time, song-filled rides home in the car, and tub time. The day ends on a blissful note, with the family reunited for a bedtime story and snuggly tuck-ins. Kastner's vivid illustrations burst off the pages in bright hues that mirror the effervescent tone, creating compelling images that draw the reader in. This warm, happy tale is just right to start or end a little one's day. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

She's back! The spunky, resourceful toy dinosaur that Kastner introduced in Princess Dinosaur (2001) returns for a creative Christmastime adventure with her fellow toy friends. The episodic plot follows the neon-green, red-skirted princess as she eats Santa's snack, tangles with the household watchdog, climbs up on the roof, falls down the chimney, and hides in the Christmas tree. The strong narrative voice comments on Princess Dinosaur's boisterous actions in present tense as they unfold, giving a cinematic effect accented by the oversized format and an active sense of motion. Kastner's watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations are exuberant and joyful, just like her heroine. The artist finds opportunities for dramatic, memorable spreads, as when Princess Dinosaur stamps out a message to Santa in the snow ("Dear Santa, I'm down here!") or when she pops out of a pile of brightly wrapped presents with a huge, toothy grin to welcome Christmas morning. The satisfying conclusion shows Princess Dinosaur hugging her present from Santa, a green dinosaur doll. ("Just what she's always wanted!") In a crowded field of dinosaur stories full of little boys and male dinosaurs, three cheers for Kastner for creating a charismatic female character that little girl dinosaur devotees can cherish. Long live the princessaurus. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
WHITE WATER by Jonathan London
Released: May 1, 2001

On the banks of the Green River in Desolation Canyon, Utah, father and son prepare for a weeklong white-water rafting adventure. As a first-timer, the boy is a bit wary of the experience. His exuberant dad inadvertently initiates nervous anticipation regarding the adverse possibilities of man meeting nature on nature's home turf. Reassuring his son that it'll be fun, he also advises that by the end of the journey he will learn to read the river, realizing the differences between safe and dangerous spots. After drifting along for awhile, they hear a roar and the call goes out— "white water!" Suddenly they're smashing and crashing through rapids with snowmelt-cold water rushing everywhere, breathless and with hearts pounding with fear and exhilaration. Around the next bend they narrowly avoid ragged rocks, get sucked into a swirling whirlpool and nearly swallowed by the raging river, until finally, they desperately pull together and free themselves from the jaws of danger. Tingling with excitement and feeling so alive, father and son savor the balance between the action of the rapids with peaceful moments, appreciating the beauty of the surrounding sights. After a week of camping out under the brilliant stars, singing around the campfire, rowing together, and meeting the challenge of the white water, the two share a special bond. In the end the boy realizes, "I had learned to read the river, and I like what I read." Kastner depicts the action-packed adventure of white-water rafting splendidly, with her earthy oil paintings filled with color and life. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
IN NOVEMBER by Cynthia Rylant
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

A gentle hymn to an autumn month. Starting with the landscape and moving on to animals, then people, Rylant's voice describes the scene in immediate terms: leafless trees "lovely . . . spreading their arms like dancers"; birds that fly away and those that stay know "all berries will be treasures." Cats sleep in barn corners and dogs before the fire. In November, an "orange smell" of squash and pumpkin and cinnamon fills the house: people come to share and to give thanks "at winter's gate." The brief, evocative text sits on full-page, oil-on-paper paintings. Broad, thick brushstrokes capture the sturdy horses, the little mice, and the country landscape from gray to brown to snowy white. The multigenerational family is clearly delighted to be together. A quiet, pre-holiday gift. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BARNYARD BIG TOP by Jill Kastner
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

It's just another day on the farm for Ben and his pig, Clarence, until Uncle Julius arrives with his Two-Ring Extravaganza. Julius, anxious to gab with his sisters, Aunt Gert and Aunt Ginny, leaves Ben in charge; the boy takes his duties seriously, but his pig, Clarence, starts showing off his balancing act and other circus feats (``By gosh, for a domestic, that pig has talent!'' marvels Uncle Julius). Gradually the whole town gets involved, gawking at the fire-eating and snake- charming; Aunt Gert and Aunt Ginny take a turn as daredevils, a heretofore undiscovered pair of talents in Ben's eyes. ``Who do you think taught me how to run a circus?'' whispers Uncle Julius. This big-hearted, eight-cylinder story is full of outlandish touches as the rollicking artwork keeps pace with the quick- moving text. The oil paintings make hay with such mighty contrasts as monkeys in the feed store, and a pig on a tightrope. Great fun. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An imaginative but not wholly successful debut set in a remote mountainside village in 19th-century France. The village lies in the shadow of a crumbling castle whose stones are said to dance just as the builders of the castle did centuries before. When a new family appears, hoping to settle nearby, the villagers react with suspicion until a young girl reminds them of their own past as outcasts. The tale ends with a jubilant dance of welcome. Working in oil, with a lot of gray and buff in the palette, Kastner uses strong composition and heavy shadow for dramatic effect. The moral of tolerance would overshadow the story but for her depictions of the fantastical jumble of decayed masonry that metamorphoses (in the eyes of ``those who carry true goodness within them'') into dancing figures. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
DOWN AT ANGEL'S by Sharon Chmielarz
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

Though other kids are put off by Angel's strange-looking eye (it's ``like a milky star'') and call him ``that dumb Bulgarian,'' the narrator and her little sister enjoy watching the old man make furniture, hearing operas on his radio, and eating the chocolate he gives them when they've helped their mama. Like the sisters, whose father died ``in the war'' (WW II), Angel has suffered a loss—because he used to drink too much, his wife has left. Chmielarz draws the affection between the lonely man and his young neighbors with a gentle lyricism that recalls similar relationships in Eve Bunting's picture books. An exchange of Christmas gifts epitomizing the hard times in this Middle- American community makes a warm and satisfying conclusion: Mama helps the girls choose a generous box full of the canned goods they have helped her put by for Angel, and he gives them a beautiful carved table they had hoped to buy from him someday. Kastner's gentle, earth-toned paintings, rendered in broad, light-filled strokes, reflect the narrative's pervasive sense of security. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE SHEPHERD BOY by Kristine L. Franklin
Released: April 1, 1994

The parable of the shepherd who goes back to find one lost sheep, with a Native American boy as shepherd. Franklin's simple, cadenced retelling (also available in Spanish—ISBN: 0-689-31918- 5) unobtrusively suggests the new setting (``each day in the summer,/when school is out,/when the rains bless the ground,/when Father/digs in the garden/and Mother/weaves in the shade,/Ben leads the sheep/to a place/where green grass grows''). But Kastner's freely rendered oil paintings are the glory of this book; her full-bleed art, in panoramas extending nearly across the broad spreads, draws the reader into luminous canyons and evokes the Southwest's wide horizons; a decorative border with a Navajo motif divides the illustrations from a text that's imposed on the same canvas that gives the art texture—a design that enhances Kastner's best illustrations to date. A highly appropriate transposition for a particularly resonant story. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
SNAKE HUNT by Jill Kastner
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

Granddad's yarns of bear chasing and rattlesnake wrassling come back to haunt him when Grandma shoos him and Jesse out of the house, archly suggesting that they hunt up a snake for dinner. Kastner bases her tale on memories of hiking the Tennessee mountains with her grandfather; her dappled, impressionistic watercolors capture the late summer woods perfectly. Tension mounts as a huge rattler, painted in dark, menacing colors, looms in Jesse's mind's eye—until a sudden breeze rattles leaves and sends her and Grandad leaping back. Sitting on a log to collect themselves, they don't notice the snake quietly coiled at its base, but agree that it's time to head home. A deftly comic tale, with the girl and her granddad sharing their apprehension and relief. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 4, 1993

The prolific Kroll's litany of the signs of spring—with most of the lines that caption the double-spread illustrations beginning with the title—is lyrical (``...when the air stops nipping her nose and chin and kisses her cheeks instead...when her [tire] swing holds her in a safe, round hug and she sails and spins in a whirling twirl''), but it's just another evocation of the changing seasons—until, at the end, Naomi overhears a neighbor: ``If only Naomi could see the blue in the sky.'' For the first time, readers are clued into the fact that Naomi's blind. But by the time readers encounter Mrs. Jensen's unneeded pity, the simple text and Kastner's lovely impressionistic paintings have conveyed Naomi's joy in the season's wealth of other sensations and experiences, summed up in her smiling response: ``If only Mrs. Jensen could see the rainbow in my mind!'' Nice. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
I WANT TO GO HOME by Alice McLerran
Released: May 22, 1992

Marta has been wanting a cat, but Sammy—whose old owners couldn't keep him—doesn't like their new home any better than she does: While Marta objects to the ugly wallpaper, Sammy hides and doesn't even come out to eat. Eventually, the two begin a tentative friendship that warms until both have accepted the new house. McLerran paces her story expertly, capturing the drama of the homely accommodation; Kastner's drab palette epitomizes the unfamiliar feeling of new surroundings, while her characters (especially the frightened cat) reveal their feelings in sensitively observed expressions. Large format makes this pleasant story particularly appropriate for groups. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
YOU'RE MY NIKKI by Phyllis Rose Eisenberg
Released: May 1, 1992

Afraid that her mother—who is starting a new job tomorrow- -will forget about her, Nikki grills her: ``What's my favorite trick?'' ``Who's my favorite friend?'' ``What's my favorite dance?'' Patiently, Mama responds to every question; but next evening she comes home tired and distracted. Deciding that she was right to worry, Nikki sulks until bedtime, when she and Mama exchange apologies. This low-key but deeply felt episode has an obvious situational use, but also shows respectful and believable give and take, on both emotional and intellectual levels, between parent and preschooler. Kastner's paintings place this black family (Nikki has shadowy older sibs) in a neat, spacious middle- class interior with bookcases and a piano but a minimum of other detail; dominated by soft purples and tans that effectively reinforce the mood, the background's simplicity gently focuses attention on the warm relationship. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >