Books by Laura Leuck

FOR JUST ONE DAY by Laura Leuck
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

A group of kids painting pictures in what seems to be a school setting launches a series of playful day-dreams as they imagine what creature they might like to be "for just one day." The rhyming narrative marches through a smattering of wildlife fantasies featuring a bee, a crocodile, a chimpanzee, a butterfly, a snake and so forth. The upbeat rhymes are active and visual: "But what if I could swim the Nile— / and be a creeping... / Crocodile! / I'd have the sharpest, snapping smile, / if I could be a crocodile." The book's downfall is a distance created between the characters and the readers. The group of kids painting in the beginning don't bear much resemblence to the children pictured throughout, creating a weak, unfulfilled visual narrative. Boutavant's funky modern/retro illustrations definitely add freshness, and any child will most likely be happy to play the game, but without a unified narrative, nothing's asking them to stick around. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Picture-book pirates are in plentiful supply, but it's still likely that plenty of landlubbers will enjoy listening to this loving description of a buccaneer dad. The narrator looks a bit like David Shannon's David, with beady black eyes, a round belly and angular limbs. In rollicking rhyme, he enumerates the joys of living aboard ship. His father, the pirate captain, helps him to get dressed, teaches him to read (from a treasure map, naturally), allows him to help recover the buried treasure and tucks him tenderly into bed at night. Stone's dark-toned illustrations, created in acrylic and mixed-media, feature exaggerated details to humorous effect (the father's shoulder-wide moustache is a particular favorite). A small mouse appears in several pictures, giving young listeners another reason to scan them carefully. Whether listeners will choose to spend more than one day in the company of this particular crew or quickly move on to a different adventure is open to argument. In the short run, however, this should definitely please book-thirsty young treasure seekers. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
SANTA CLAWS by Laura Leuck
Released: Nov. 1, 2006

Monster Town is the setting for this mischievously macabre Christmas story, which will appeal to fans of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. The over-the-top story is told in rhyming couplets that beg to be read aloud in a deep, spooky voice with dramatic pauses for effect. Two monster boys, Mack and Zack, are getting ready for Christmas, decorating with skulls and bones and whipping up some poisonberry pies and eggnog mixed with spider feet for Santa's treats. Santa Claws is an amorphous figure in a bulging, "blood-red" suit with a snake in his boot and horns poking out around his hat. He arrives by dragon power and leaves plenty of "gross and grisly Christmas toys" around the dead pine tree decorated with eyeballs. Aptly named illustrator Grimly provides watercolor-and-ink illustrations in a muted palette that strike just the right balance: weirdly edgy but not too terribly scary. Additional humor is added to the endpapers and back cover with ads for invented products such as "Vampbell's Garbage Soup." A tasty Christmas treat for kids who like their humor gross and their satires snappy. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2004

Who better to deal with a class of little monsters than a toothy, green-skinned teacher with a lizard's tail and witchy powers? In Nash's otherwise-familiar classroom scenes, many of the children really are juvenile versions of famous Creature Feature creatures: a vampirelet, a loosely-wrapped mummy, a furry wolf-boy, a black-clad child whose last name has to be Addams, and so on. The young narrator regards his "creature teacher" with a mix of respect and affection, whether she's rejecting his " . . . taped and glued / assignments that my werewolf chewed," dispatching a bully to the Principal's office aboard a flying broom, or leading everyone outside "for recess time / to jump and play in piles of slime." Despite plenty of extra limbs and googly eyes, there's not a trace of eeriness here; even sensitive or younger readers will respond with giggles rather than shivers to this tongue-in-cheek tribute—and likely take to heart the closing line: "So if your creature teacher's near— / thank her for her help this year!" Quite a contrast to Edith Pattou's Mrs. Spitzer's Garden, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (2001), but the message is the same. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
ONE WITCH by Laura Leuck
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

In jaunty rhyme, one witch gathers up a fish tail from two cats, a blackbird's claw from three scarecrows, and similarly appetizing ingredients from similarly iconic ookie-spookies, up to the spider's soup donated by ten werewolves. Why? To concoct a "gruesome stew," for her party, of course, to which she proceeds to invite each contributor in descending order—note the skeletal arms holding bat-delivered invitations from their graves. Schindler marks the festive occasion with scenes of capering, precisely detailed skeletons, vampires, Gorey-like ghosts, and similarly risky friends; young readers may be pleased—or not—to learn that they've "saved the last bowl just for . . . YOU!" The monster-ridden cast and ghoulish goulash will elicit choruses of delighted "Eeeewwwwws!" (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

Twenty-six monsters, alphabetically arranged, enjoy a day at school in this cheerful offering. "Ann has alligator skin, / Bud grows toadstools on his chin," Leuck begins. Parkins's bright, offbeat illustrations, which stand out against a white background, have massive kid-appeal. They also add another dimension to the story. In a double-page spread for the letters K and L, for example, Parkins turns Kendra, whose "tail is spiked and strong" into an ungainly green dino in a frilly tutu. Lucy, whose "tongue is ten feet long," is an anteater-type creature who uses that appendage to grip a marker for drawing. It's a stretch to call this an alphabet book, however. Aside from the monsters' names, there aren't any other letter/word associations to be made. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >