Books by Judith Heide Gilliland

STRANGE BIRDS by Judith Heide Gilliland
Released: May 8, 2006

Reminiscent of classic stories by Edward Eager as well as the work of Polly Horvath, this fanciful story has an old-fashioned feel. Eleven-year-old Anna, orphaned when her parents are lost at sea, falls into the clutches of her self-absorbed, status-conscious Aunt Formaldy. Bullied at school and ignored at home, Anna is extremely unhappy until she finds a friend and discovers a herd of miniature flying horses in the tree beside her home. The tree, which also harbors an apparently magical room of cozy furniture, turns out to have been planted by one of Anna's ancestors who also encountered the flying horses and left a record of her experiences. A wicked circus ringmaster (uncle of the school bully) determined to capture the horses; a magical nut that causes those who eat it to shrink; a desperate flight to the mythical island known as "Pegasuteague"; and the discovery of Anna's parents alive and well pack the story with events but fail to form a cohesive whole. Well-intentioned but overly long and sadly short on charm. (Fiction. 11-14)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Heide and Gilliland (Sami and the Time of the Troubles, 1992, etc.) bring to readers Baghdad of the ninth century, a time and a place that sought wisdom and encouraged learning to the point of incandescence. The story concerns Ishaq, the son of Hunayn, one of the scholars of Caliph al-Ma'mun's grand House of Wisdom; it harbored both learned men and the great books of history, brought there by caravans that ranged throughout the known world. Ishaq is fascinated by his father's passion for the ancient books, but he doesn't share the fire for learning. He dreams of leading a caravan and when he gets his opportunity, travels for three years, returning to Baghdad with a great collection of books, including a lost manuscript of Aristotle's. This last excites Ishaq in a way he had never experienced, and he, too, decides to become a scholar in the House of Wisdom. Heide and Gilliland become almost mystical about the pleasures of learning, while GrandPrÇ's fanciful, exotic artwork, with high domed ceilings and ornately patterned walls and floors, give books a sacred residence. That the three main characters were real gives the story its weight; it's an idyllic moment in history, with the architectural splendors of old Baghdad providing just the right setting. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
NOT IN THE HOUSE, NEWTON! by Judith Heide Gilliland
Released: Oct. 23, 1995

Newton happens across a red, red crayon that fairly hums with magic. Everything he draws with the crayon becomes real, and each and every item, his mother reminds him, is forbidden in the house: a bouncing ball, a vrooming racecar, a fire truck with real sirens. At last he draws a big red airplane and takes wing—out of the house, away from all constraints. Gilliland (Rivers, 1993, etc.) celebrates the artistic impulse in a delightfully understated fashion, and Sayles's softened pastels create the right mood for the adventure: Suggesting a sense of otherworldiness, they portray Newton, whose happiness simply sparks off the page, as a boy who takes his artistic mÇtier seriously. Not a new idea—look to Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon (1958) and Anthony Browne's The Little Bear Book (1989)—but here it's particularly joyful. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
RIVER by Judith Heide Gilliland
Released: Sept. 20, 1993

Gilliland (coauthor of Sami and the Time of the Troubles, 1992) evokes the Amazon's long course in spare, graceful prose, touching on the river's sources, celebrating its variety, and sampling the wealth of wildlife it supports. Powzyk, wildlife illustrator par excellence, provides double-spread watercolors that capture the waterway's source high in the Andes in sweeping impressionistic landscapes of remarkable simplicity, focus on the beauty of individual species, and lovingly evoke particular environments—a waterfall; treetop monkeys that never visit the forest floor and perhaps ``do not even know it is there''; ``river, forests,/clouds, and rain./And more./And more.'' Not an in-depth portrait, but a thoughtful and beautiful introduction, sure to inspire curiosity. Map. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 20, 1992

``It is a time of guns and bombs. It is a time that has lasted all my life, and I am ten years old.'' So Sami begins his picture of life in contemporary Beirut, where he lives with his widowed mother, his grandfather, and his little sister in a basement lined with glowing carpets that are a poignant reminder of how beautiful life once was. Sami remembers picnicking at the beach once; he listens to his grandfather's stories and to the bombs; finally, on a rare, quiet day when the radio says it's safe, the family ventures out. The fort Sami built with friend Amir is gone, but, miraculously, there is fresh food to buy, even a wedding to observe. Sami and Amir play a war game, but also remember ``the day of the children,'' a long-ago demonstration against the fighting; now Sami understands his grandfather's unspoken hope that the next generation will be wiser. Vividly evoking Sami's strife-torn world, the gracefully understated text is stunningly illustrated in broad double-spread watercolors. Lewin's characterizations are sensitive and compelling; his lovely, dark interiors bespeak the characters' continuing courage and grief, while outdoor scenes dramatize life persisting amid the destruction. An outstanding book that, fortunately, is already somewhat out of date; an explanatory note would have been useful to young readers trying to put this in context. (Picture book. 6+) Read full book review >