Books by John A. Rowe

SMILE by John A. Rowe
by John A. Rowe, illustrated by John A. Rowe
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Grumpy Land isn't a fun place to be. As one might expect from the name, no one smiles; indeed, everyone, from the royal family on down, has forgotten how. Then one day, along comes Prince Grumpy the Sixth, who wears an odd look on his face. Doctors rush from far and wide to examine the newborn and diagnose his disfigurement. Readers will quickly notice that the "ailment" is a bright smile, soon adopted by the king, queen and royal siblings and then by all their subjects. All ends well as everyone keeps on smiling, and the next generation brings forth a happily grinning new royal. Rowe's art is colorful and charming and includes quirky details; the all-animal cast is endearing, particularly their bulldog majesties. In the end, however, while the story may elicit some smiles among readers, with so little actual plot, this is a bland and predictable effort. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
I WANT A HUG by John A. Rowe
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Between endpapers filled with couples kissing and embracing among floating hearts, Rowe places a cozy tale of a baby hedgehog in need of a touch of intimacy. Clad in a diaper fastened with a huge safety pin, and so the very image of cuteness, little Elvis wanders parks and sidewalks demanding a hug—but gets only rude rejections, because he's so prickly. At last he runs into Colin the crocodile, who himself is looking for someone willing to kiss his ugly snout. Elvis has no problem with that, and so Colin, being scaly of hide, delightedly sweeps him up for a cuddle. Depicting his all-animal cast in human dress and settings, Rowe reflects the story's tone in the art by centering attention on Elvis's large eyes and small size. The absence of a Mama Hedgehog may ruffle more convention-minded children (and adults), but the message that differences should be embraced—literally, in this case—is always worth an iteration. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
SMUDGE by John A. Rowe
by John A. Rowe, illustrated by John A. Rowe
Released: Oct. 15, 1997

Rowe (The Gingerbread Man, 1996, etc.) presents another delightfully eccentric character from his bestiary: an old storytelling rat named Smudge, who recalls his childhood abduction by a bird. Back at the nest, after a brief stint as a beak buffer, he becomes part of the family, learning to chirp and ``even thought about laying an egg.'' But the birds fly off and he is snatched by a dog. The dogs run off—he is too slow—and his next forced domicile is a rabbit hutch. They bound off, and Smudge's hopping can't compare. So it goes with fish and squirrels: Smudge is first used by his captor, then abandoned when he can't mimic his abductor's most salient attribute. At last, glory be, he is whisked off by a brown rat with a big smile: Mom. Rowe replays the to-thine-own-self-be-true theme with a combination of drollery and piquancy, with artwork that is dauntingly emotional: Sometimes Smudge is diminutive, looking highly vulnerable and far away; at other times readers are right there in the dark-toned illustrations, holding Smudge's hand, sharing his journey toward home. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
PETER PIGLET by John A. Rowe
Released: Oct. 15, 1996

Peter Piglet's life changes irrevocably when he chances upon a pair of golden shoes secreted under a pile of sticks, acorns, and blackbird feathers. Peter slips them on and goes about mastering the finer points of shoe locomotion—walking, skipping, climbing. He couldn't be happier as he drifts off to sleep that night, exhausted. Nor could he be sadder when he wakes up the next morning and the shoes are gone. One has been commandeered by a wrinkled old tortoise, who lost his home in a storm; now the inverted shoe serves as his golden palace. Peter is dumbstruck. A blackbird has appropriated the other shoe to replace her nest, which was carried off by the wind, and now her babies chirp happily from their golden cradle. Peter loves those shoes, but he suddenly understands that they are being put to a greater purpose, a realization that brings happiness. Rowe (The Gingerbread Man, p. 606, etc.) delivers his message straightforwardly, but without a cudgel. And as in his earlier works, he has a way with a paint brush, turning perspectives akimbo to spotlight characters in the compositions. The attention he pays to their expressions is highly entertaining. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1996

``Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, I'm the Gingerbread Man and you can't catch me!'' taunts the fleet-footed cookie. Across the fields he scurries, challenging and outdistancing all comers until he meets his match in the sly old fox and fulfills every good cookie's destiny: to be eaten. This English folktale still has zip, and its lead player is still infuriating, the kind of guy readers are only too delighted to see devoured (or parodied, as a Stinky Cheese Man). This book is a welcome addition to the burgeoning gingerbread shelf, with Rowe's luxurious acrylic illustrations, saturated with great plains of bold color. The Gingerbread Man's targets are appealing characters in settings that often contain an eccentric touch or two: the mice's piebald house, strange trees, skies that look like a plague of locust are passing through. As for the cookie, he's a faceless little cutout who could be genetically related to Gumby, a ridiculous windbag richly deserving of his fate. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

Invite readers again to visit the High and Far-Off Times in this piece culled from the Just So Stories. Two bank-dwellers along the turbid Amazon, Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog and Slow-and-Solid Tortoise, meet Painted Jaguar, armed with explicit instructions from his mother on the best way to recognize and devour each. The hedgehog and tortoise confuse their predator with some fancy wordplay, but believe their escape is short-lived. In order to continue to stymie their predator, the hedgehog learns to swim and the tortoise masters the knack of curling up. In the process, something of a transformation occurs and armadillos are the result. Kipling's liquid prose is as entertaining as ever; in dazzling accompaniment are Rowe's paintings—moody, comedic vignettes with dark backgrounds—that root the story to the banks of the Amazon and give it jolt of animation. A terrific, sophisticated introduction to Kipling. (Picture book/folklore. 6-9) Read full book review >
THE ELEPHANT'S CHILD by Rudyard Kipling
Released: April 1, 1995

One of Kipling's best beloved from his Just So Stories (various editions), which explains how the elephant got his trunk, with somewhat enigmatic acrylic illustrations. The layout is rather plain: text on the lefthand side, pictures on the right. The still illustrations, executed in deep, heavy colors, follow the story very loosely. Often, they are representations of almost abstract shapes (rocks or animals), seen from odd angles (from above, from behind a rock), usually against a monolithic and indeterminate background. Appropriately, the artist makes use of a narrow perspective, offering readers glimpses of only part of the elephant's child, never the whole: his back, the top of his head, his trunk. The shadowy world depicted here also features strange little animals, skulls and bones, and scribbles that look like cave paintings; the atmosphere in these static pictures is lonely and mute. There is something mysterious about them, due to their undefined settings and abstract composition; their relationship to the text is never spelled out. They are more likely to appeal to adults than the picture book crowd; as usual, the text is required reading for everybody. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
BABY CROW by John A. Rowe
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Both Rowe's (Jack the Dog, not reviewed) story and his illustrations are strangely brooding. Baby Crow lives at the bottom of the hierarchical family tree. His grandfather, a once-renowned now-retired opera singer, lives at the top. When Baby Crow's parents try to teach their little darling to sing, he can't sing a single caw. All he can manage is a weak ``beep.'' Grandfather solves the problem by looking into Baby Crow's throat, where he finds a cherry lodged. After that, Baby Crow can sing—and loudly. His distraught relatives can't sleep from his incessant cawing. Then his father has an idea. He feeds Baby Crow more cherries and is thankful when the young one once again utters his quiet ``beep.'' Maybe Baby Crow will one day be a great singer like his grandfather, but not yet. An unusually dark picture book that is probably too subtle for its intended audience. (Fiction/Picture book. 5- 8) Read full book review >