Books by Juanita Havill

CALL THE HORSE LUCKY by Juanita Havill
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

A surprisingly effective story about horse rescue. While riding bikes in the country, Mel and her grandma see a thin, neglected-looking horse alone in a barren field. Mel returns the next day; seeing that the horse limps and appears to be suffering, she convinces her grandma to call animal control. A few weeks later the horse is rescued and taken to a farm, where he is properly fed and given veterinary and farrier care. Mel wishes she could adopt him, but she realizes without angst that her family doesn't have the resources. Instead, Lucky goes to a therapeutic riding center, where Mel volunteers so she can continue to see him. The horse's neglect and recovery are related without melodrama or blame, and the story shows clearly that Mel can make a difference using appropriate channels. Consciously didactic but not offensively so, the story avoids the traps so many other well-meaning animal-rescue tales fall prey to. The watercolor illustrations are just as straightforward and honest as the text, and, given the economy, this book may well see a lot of use. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

When Jamaica's friend Kristin comes over, she's got a kitten in a shoebox with her. She can't keep the kitten, she explains, because her older cat doesn't get along with it. Would Jamaica like to have Puffy? Jamaica's doubtful, because her brother, Ossie, is allergic to cats, but Puffy's only a kitten, and he's sooo cute. It doesn't take long before Ossie starts sneezing (Jamaica had made a bed for Puffy out of his spare football jersey), and Jamaica reluctantly decides that Puffy will have to go to Kristin's aunt after all. Like its predecessors in the series, this has a winning simplicity. There are no hijinks, no tantrums—just Jamaica's hope and her subsequent acceptance of reality. Kristin should be thankful she can have a cat at all, says Jamaica, but she should be thankful, too, that she has a brother. O'Brien's warm pastel-and-watercolor illustrations depict Jamaica and her family with a soft-edged affection. It's not all bad to be reminded to be thankful. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
JUST LIKE A BABY by Juanita Havill
Released: April 1, 2009

Everyone in baby Ellen's extended family has big dreams for their little girl. From truck driving to bird watching, family members encourage the babe to follow in their footsteps. Ellen responds accordingly each time: She yawns, snoozes and babbles until the family's chatter finally overwhelms her. With a dramatic protest, Ellen "lets out an earthshaking howl, a cloud-ruffling yowl, a listen-to-me-I'm-a-baby squall," and proud Mama truthfully declares, "For now Ellen will do just what Ellen wants." Lively dialogue and an upbeat refrain enhance the spare text. Davenier's watercolor-and-ink illustrations seamlessly blend colors; bursts of rosy reds lead to an arresting presentation. Soft, thin lines exude a comforting familiarity, and colored typefaces vary for added emphasis. Baby Ellen remains fully hidden from view until the final double-page spread; her crossed legs and smug smile reveal uninhibited satisfaction. While the narrative's pointed message specifically targets new parents, taut pacing and soothing art combine to create a vibrant read-aloud for young listeners. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
GROW by Juanita Havill
Released: April 1, 2008

With school out and time on her hands, Berneetha, a generous and colorful special-needs educator whose job was just cut, decides to take an unused plot of land and turn it into a community garden. Her enormous and enormously inviting spirit draws people together, including narrator Kate, a 12-year-old who appears to enjoy chocolate cake more than her mother likes, and Harlan, a stray-cat kind of boy. Eventually, the gardeners are told to get off the land, which is slated to be developed into an office tower. Mercifully, the author avoids a heavy, protracted courtroom battle, and the agreeable characters manage to relocate the garden, transplanting the flowers and vegetables—even Berneetha's deceased cat, buried in the garden by Kate and Harlan, is disinterred and reburied. Kodman's pencil illustrations add touches of whimsy and charm to the story, and designate it a work for a young audience. Much of the language is prosaic and structurally simple, punctuated by an occasional burst of poetic language. However, it's a nice read, and it would partner well with Paul Fleischman's much more challenging Seedfolks (1997). (Fiction/poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2006

Twenty poems celebrate the denizens of the garden through day, night and all sorts of weather. The strongest poems scan well, with disciplined rhyme and insightful metaphors. "Garden Lullaby" gently explores the moonlit garden, sotto voce: "Sweet dreams, little peas, ten to a pod. / Good night, radishes, tucked under sod. / Gone are the bees and butterflies." Less successful are erratically rhyming poems such as "The Pumpkin's Revenge"—"The ugly pumpkin, so heckled and shamed, / defied the fairy deadline and remained / a one-of-a-kind carriage in gilded frame. / You can see him today in a Paris museum." Davenier deftly commands her medium, layering transparent, luminous watercolor. The best compositions liberally employ black line to contour leaves, pods and worms, and the endpapers, contrasting the garden in summer and winter, truly sparkle. A childlike fairy, never referenced in the poems, appears prominently in every illustration, and the correspondence between poem and illustration is at times lacking. Uneven, but not without its bright charms. (Poetry. 6-10)Read full book review >
EYES LIKE WILLY’S by Juanita Havill
Released: June 1, 2004

This WWI story poses an interesting question: what happens when enemies are also friends? In 1906, ten-year-old Guy, with his parents and little sister Sarah, spend their summer holiday in Bregenz, a lakeside resort in Austria. On the first morning, he meets Willy, an Austrian boy. Drawn by shared interests, they quickly become best friends, and each succeeding year's holiday deepens their relationship—until the summer of 1914, when the boys, now ready to enter university, find their vacation cancelled by the advent of war. Both enlist, on different sides. Havill, best known for picture books, struggles with characterization early on; Guy and Willy sound precocious, and their friendship is more told than shown. As the story progresses, though, it becomes steadily more believable; Guy's emotions when he sees a wounded Austrian who resembles Willy are heartfelt. Worth a look. (illustrations not seen) (Historical fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 25, 2002

Havill and O'Brien team up for a sixth offering about Jamaica, the second in the series to include Jamaica's Asian-American friend, Brianna (Jamaica and Brianna, 1999, etc.). In this dance-themed story, the girls are enrolled in the same ballet school, along with Brianna's older sister, Nikki. For their spring recital, each girl is assigned a role in the "Dance of Spring," but repeated casting changes have to be made due to an epidemic of strep throat. Of course, the show must go on, with Jamaica moving a step up to the part of a bumblebee. Nikki and Brianna both get sick and have to miss the recital, but later, all three girls give an at-home performance of their dances for their attentive families. Jamaica plays a peripheral role in this entry in the series, which really focuses more on Brianna and Nikki and their disappointment in missing an important event that looms large at every dance school. The story offers a look at an issue that is hard for kids (and parents) to face: sometimes we get sick and have to stay home to recover, no matter how important the missed event. O'Brien's watercolor and pastel illustrations show cute, expressive children, but their dance-class attire and the positions of their legs and feet while dancing aren't exactly precise. Jamaica's fans will enjoy reading about another aspect of her life just the same, and further adventures for Jamaica and Brianna seem likely in this popular ongoing series. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1999

Jamaica (Jamaica and Brianna, 1993, etc.) is back in another a gentle story, and in for another moral dilemma. Her class has a calm, smiling substitute teacher, Mrs. Duval, who explains that while the regular teacher is absent, "I plan for us to work hard, but we'll have fun, too." Jamaica earns high praise for her reading aloud, for finding the hidden penguin, and for answering math puzzles, but when she gets to the spelling test, she can't remember how to spell "calf." Yielding to temptation, she looks at her friend's paper. The tests are corrected, and she gets 100%, but Jamaica knows she copied and doesn't turn the paper in, later confessing (unprompted) to her behavior. The teacher praises Jamaica's courage in admitting she cheated, and says, "You don't have to be perfect to be special in my class. All my students are special. I'm glad you're one of them." The softly colored pastel drawings show Jamaica, her range of emotions, appealing classmates, and the teacher's kindly nature. This sensitive treatment of the topic makes the book ideal for group discussion. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
JENNIFER, TOO by Juanita Havill
Released: May 1, 1994

The author of the popular Jamaica books offers three easy chapters about a cheerful child edging her way into her big brother's games with his friends. When the boys are ``Spies in Disguise,'' Jennifer is as good a sleuth as any; ghost stories in the dark aren't her idea of fun, but overheard from downstairs they seem so mild that she creeps up to join the boys—and frightens them by creaking the attic stairs; and when they play knights she refuses to be the queen but is included once again when she shows them how to make cardboard shields after their moms reclaim the garbage can lids they're using. The perky, realistic dialogue, lively b&w art, and assertive protagonist will all appeal to other young feminists, and to boys with older sibs, too. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Based on a true incident, the story of a Japanese ivory carver who, after devoting a lifetime to his art, gave it up when he found a bullet in the magnificent block of ivory he had hoped to make into his masterpiece. Realizing that his medium depended on the suffering of endangered animals, he became a stone carver. Havill (Jamaica's Find, 1986) embellishes her narrative with an unnecessary dream sequence that may confuse the youngest readers, but it does add drama to the quiet story. As in Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon (1991), the Tsengs' double-page paintings are full of the homely details of an Asian culture—clothing, furnishings, tools; while the African dream sequence allows them to extend their palette and create a phantasmagorical elephant herd. The connection between Africa and Japan is of particular interest. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

The scenario is absolutely authentic: Jamaica is embarrassed by her hand-me-down boys' boots and jealous of Brianna's pretty pink ones; when Jamaica's wear out, she chooses cowboy boots so Brianna won't say she copied—only to have Brianna tell her that they ``aren't in''; hurt, she declares Brianna's ``ugly.'' All comes right when the two finally level: Brianna's boots are also hand-me-downs, and she can't wait to grow so she can replace them. Yes, the story's about boots—as important an arena for choice and identity for small children as for their elders—but it's also, in Havill's simple, beautifully honed text, about friendship. O'Brien's warm, realistic illustrations of this vibrant African-American and her lively Asian-American friend are just right. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
KENTUCKY TROLL by Juanita Havill
Released: March 1, 1993

Young Troll—ever curious about people—stows away on a sailing ship from Sweden and ends up in Kentucky, where no one has heard of trolls. On the advice of a farmer who politely ignores his bizarre features, and with the help of some magic dust, Young Troll builds a cabin, gets a cow, and starts to sell butter, hoping to attract a wife with the money. Scheming for the secret of the fine butter, the storekeeper volunteers his pretty daughter Becky as helper. Young Troll begins to explain trolls to Becky; incredulous at first, she's convinced when she sees him dropping magic dust into the churn. Horrified, she runs back to her father; Young Troll retreats to the woods, cured of wanting to be human. In Dodson's lively pencil and watercolor illustrations, the overalled troll is appealingly ugly in the manner of the popular toys; the longish tale makes an entertaining analogue to their recent US invasion. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
TREASURE NAP by Juanita Havill
Released: March 1, 1992

It's too hot to sleep, so Mam† takes Alicia and baby Ram¢n downstairs, blows the fan over ice cubes toward them, and tells them the true story her own mam† used to tell when it was too hot: Little Rita made a long trek on foot, somewhere in Central America, to a mountain village to say goodbye to her grandfather before her family moved to the US. In the end, Alicia is allowed to play with the things that Grandfather gave to Rita, which Mam†—who is Rita's granddaughter—still treasures: a serape, a pito (flute), and a birdcage. An unassuming yet telling story that effectively honors the Latin American heritage; Savadier makes a fine debut, the primitive style and richly glowing colors of the illustrations for the inner tale contrasting nicely with the monumental simplicity of the appealing characters she depicts for the framing story. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
JAMAICA TAG-ALONG by Juanita Havill
Released: March 5, 1990

When Jamaica (of Jamaica's Find, 1986) wants to play basketball with her big brother Ossie and his friends, he scornfully excludes her. So she retreats to the sandbox, where a toddler, Berto, volunteers help with her sandcastle. At first, Jamaica rejects him as she has been rejected; then it occurs to her that it would be nicer to accept help than to hurt Berto's feelings. When Ossie's game is over, he joins them—and Jamaica welcomes him. This simple but important lesson is attractively illustrated in realistic watercolors, most of them broad double-spreads that draw the reader in and are large enough for use with groups. Read full book review >