Books by Judith Byron Schachner

YO, VIKINGS! by Judith Byron Schachner
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2001

A seemingly outrageous fantasy comes at least partly true for imaginative Emma when she's able to purchase an actual Viking ship. A school project requires students to do reports on famous explorers; Emma's is Erik the Red. She throws herself into the task, taking on his persona and donning Viking-esque garb as she researches his life and the culture of the Vikings with the help of her friendly librarian, Mr. Sigurd, who may have a little Viking blood in him himself. After giving her report, Mr. Sigurd shows Emma an advertisement for a Viking ship for sale for $7,000. After cobbling together $128, Emma writes to the sellers, begging them to consider selling her the ship rather than junking it; and remarkably, they agree. Children may not find a story about an imaginative girl on a quest for a used Viking ship particularly compelling or realistic, but the collage-style illustrations add a great deal of appeal and interest. They feature a trove of finds for observant readers, such as real books by the author on Mr. Sigurd's shelves and books by other favorite authors in the library and in Emma's room, Emma's T-shirt reading "Leif Landed First," a T-shirt on a gossipy schoolmate featuring a cat and the word "Ouch," and snippets of maps and reference entries to Scandinavian lands used as clothing patterns. An author's note includes facts about Vikings, a bit about the background of the story (the authors' daughters really did procure a Viking ship from a Leif Ericsson organization), and a list of sources for further reading. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
HOW THE CAT SWALLOWED THUNDER by Lloyd Alexander
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

An original pour quoi tale explaining why cats have the ability to purr, pleasing both themselves and their owners. The crafty feline in this story, Cat, is a lazy, mischievous sort who lives with Mother Holly, an incarnation of Mother Nature who has special responsibilities for all the creatures of the earth. While Mother Holly is tending to her business away from their cottage, Cat ignores his chores and disobeys the rules of the house, only to be met by mysterious forces of nature: an indoor rainstorm, whirling winds, flying popcorn, and a blizzard of both goose feathers and snowflakes. By the time he's cleaned up all these natural disasters, the cottage is tidy except for one last unpopped kernel of corn, which he swallows in haste, causing that magical rumbling sound inside him, like thunder about to explode. Alexander's (Gypsy Riska, 1999. etc) story has the ring of a traditional tale, but it's Schachner's (The Grannyman, 1999, etc.) bold illustrations that make Cat spring to life, with several double-page spreads of the cat pouncing, leaping, or standing on his head. The oversized format and lively story line make this a fine read-aloud for a group, although there are also tiny hidden details (including a pair of miniature trouble-making mice and a portrait of Alexander on the wall) that will reward those who read the book one-on-one with a child.(Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE GRANNYMAN by Judith Byron Schachner
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

From Schachner (Mr. Emerson's Cook, 1998, etc.), a book tailored to cat lovers, as those best versed to appreciate the many subtle feline endearments caught in these pages. Simon is an aged Siamese: "With the exception of his nose, most of his parts had stopped working long ago." He shuffles about the house and is treated as royalty by the family who cares for him. He regales readers with the life he has so richly lived: the "fluffy works of art" he sculpted out of the back of the sofa, the plants he pruned, and children he taught to be good cats. He supposes that the time has come for him to sail off into the great unknown, until his family deposits a bundle—a Siamese kitten—in his lap. As Simon shows the kitten the ropes, he figures there is no need to make his exit just yet, and earns the new name, Grannyman, for his parenting skills. Schachner's artwork is tender and apt, capturing nuances in the postures struck, the cock of the head, the bend of the tail. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
MR. EMERSON'S COOK by Judith Byron Schachner
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Schachner (Willy and May, 1995, etc.) presents Ralph Waldo Emerson and his world through the eyes of his Irish cook (and the author's ancestor), Annie Burns. Upon arriving in the US, Annie answers an advertisement for "an extraordinary cook" to feed an "acclaimed poet and philosopher who has stopped eating due to an overactive imagination." When she arrives at the farm, Annie is met by chickens wearing tiny boots (the work of Henry David Thoreau), and realizes she's in for an unusual experience. The differences between immigrant Annie's tough, sensible constitution and Emerson's dreamy, thoughtful disposition are made clear, but not recklessly so: "Once I had a dream. An angel offered me the world in the size and shape of an apple. ‘This thou must eat,' said the angel, and I ate the world," Emerson tells Annie, who responds, "The last time I ate an apple, sir, ‘twas merely an apple." Living on the Emerson farm opens up her creative side, and little by little Annie's literal take on the world changes. A token from home, reminding her of the fanciful musings of childhood, inspires her to create a dish Emerson will eat. Annie's transformation is full of poetic imagery and whirling lines; readers will become swept up in this fascinating story of self-discovery that also perfectly captures the great poet's nature. An informative afterword gives Emerson's and Annie's backgrounds. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
WILLY AND MAY by Judith Byron Schachner
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

The adventures of a young girl (who narrates), her mildly eccentric Aunt May, and May's rascally canary, Willy. During their twice-yearly get-togethers, they sing along with the old Victrola, cool off (clothes and all) in the pond after a berry-picking session, decorate the yuletide tree, and tend Willy after particularly exuberant flights. When the girl's mother gets so sick that visits to Aunt May's are cancelled, May writes that she'll come to the narrator's house for Christmas, but a blizzard threatens that plan, too. She eventually hitches a ride in a sled overflowing with packages, but can't remember the driver's name afterward. The story is charmingly low-key—illustrated with cheerily quaint, yarn-bright watercolors—and feels less like a fantasy and more like everyday life. That may be why the introduction of a Saint Nicklike character is a little jarring. It's a minor quibble in light of Aunt May's established intrepidness. This mostly unassuming tale delivers plenty of joy on Aunt May's—and Santa's—coattails. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
JIMMY, THE PICKPOCKET OF THE PALACE by Donna Jo Napoli
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1995

In this sequel to the charming Prince of the Pond (1992), Jimmy, frog-son of the frog prince, must save the pond from the evil Hag, who is working on a spell to dry it up so she can find her lost magic ring. In the process, Jimmy finds himself turned into a human boy, a condition not at all to his liking. He is put to work in the palace, alternately aided and hindered by the tempestuous princess Sally. There he meets the fascinating prince; he is sympathetic, seems to know an awful lot about frogs, and may know something about Jimmy's missing father. Told in the first person by Jimmy, this enchanting story has a gentle, offbeat humor, much of which stems from Jimmy's retention of froggy characteristics while he is a boy. It also lends the proceedings an ineffable sweetness perfectly complemented by Schachner's b&w illustrations. With enough action, suspense, and humor for younger readers, this successful successor is certain to satisfy old fans and win new friends for the frog prince and his brood. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
STAYING WITH GRANDMOTHER by Barbara Baker
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

After Clair's parents kiss her good-bye, she feels sad; but she shares a hug with Grandmother (who looks sad, too) and goes upstairs to put her things in her mother's old room before helping to set the table (the macaroni ``is good. But I like the way my mother makes it better''). The quiet narrative, with dialogue limited to rather formal exchanges in the beginning, nicely evokes the feelings of a thoughtful child who's not quite familiar enough with her grandmother to be at ease in her home. Still, as Schachner's sensitively limned illustrations suggest, Grandmother may be reticent but she does understand how Clair feels. After supper, she introduces her to her ``special friend'' Jennifer, Clair's age; later, she reads to Clair from her mother's copy of Alice in Wonderland and finds her her mother's treasured toy ``White Rabbit'' to take to bed. A well-crafted story, gently suffused with affection. (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Poor Jade (or Jade-to-be, since "de fawg pin" has yet to name her): she's faced with a big, beautiful frog—such legs!—and he doesn't seem to have the foggiest notion about what to do with his tongue, or how to leap or avoid danger. She even has to teach him to mate, and then he insists on personally raising at least 50 of his hundreds of children. Still, though he never masters r's, l's and s's (hence "Pin" for "Prince"), he leaves his aristocratic mark on the pond world, as a hag-bewitched prince should. He also leaves Jade with the 50 tads when a passing princess accidentally plants a kiss on his proboscis. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the pond, another change is rung on the frog prince; this time, readers' sympathies will be with the frog's first wife, left with 50 upwardly mobile children. Nicely complemented by Schachner's charmingly whimsical (and anatomically informed) drawings, a book with an astonishing amount of in-depth natural history cleverly enmeshed in its endearing, screwball charm. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >