Books by Lillian Hoban

Released: Jan. 31, 1998

A third holiday adventure (Silly Tilly and the Easter Bunny, 1987, etc.) about the absent-minded mole and her friends. Tilly ``forgets to remember'' lots of things, such as why February 14 is a special day, how slippery snow is, and that she has cupcakes in the oven. On this Valentine's Day, it's snowing so hard that Tilly's glasses become clouded, so there's more silliness resulting from her poor vision. Her friends Mr. Mail-Mole and Mr. Bunny help her out of these difficulties, and they eventually have a jolly Valentine's celebration. This has inconsistencies for an I Can Read: The dialogue makes use of contractions erratically; commas are occasionally omitted in places where standard usage requires them, e.g., to set off the word too, and at the ends of some lines of poetry. Still, easy-to-read holiday stories are always in demand, and this one is, if unexceptional, fairly harmless. (Fiction. 5-7) Read full book review >
EVER-CLEVER ELISA by Johanna Hurwitz
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

There are few surprises in this outing from Hurwitz (Make Room for Elisa, 1993, etc.), who lays on the lessons with heavy hand and subdues any potential excitement with deadening passive-voice narration: ``Books were given out to the students, and the routine was explained.'' In six short chapters, Elisa attends her first day of first grade, follows her father into a voting booth, counts down to her birthday, celebrates Mother's Day in the wee hours of the morning, swallows a tooth, and enters a raffle. There's enough action to hold interest, but the point of view is occasionally adult, e.g., that Elisa's father loses his vote (by demonstrating how the voting booth works, he casts blanks) is a point that may be lost on children. The characters are a pretty bland bunch, especially given Elisa's ``ever-clever'' designation, and poor Russell—he has only grudging, walk-on status here. This story is full of good intentions, but lacks energy. (b&w illustrations) (Fiction. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 28, 1997

Hoban (Arthur's Camp-Out, 1993, etc.) has created a honey of a board book (as well as its companion, Big Little Lion, ISBN 0- 694-00851-6) that addresses the timeworn complaint of youngsters who believe they aren't being treated like the big kids they wish they were. Otter endures his mother's cleaning licks and her solo hunting for dinner (they munch away on what look like boiled crabs), but what he really wants is to join in the hunt (``I'm not a baby, Mama. I can fish for supper, too''). He demonstrates his diving, flipping, and spinning talents, and says, ``I'm a big little otter!'' The simple text comes with illustrations that captures the otter's friendly, curious face; readers will wish they could reach in and give him a good scratch behind the ear. Hoban is perfectly in tune with the yearnings of preschoolers. (Board book. 1-3) Read full book review >
THE BIG SEED by Ellen Howard
Released: Sept. 9, 1993

Bess, smallest in her class, is constantly being shoved out of the way or left till last. When she chooses a seed to plant in a milk carton, she picks a big one; she's not sure what it is, but remembers small yellow flowers on the packet—``Marigolds?'' suggests nice stepfather Charlie, the only person who seems to listen to Bess. The plant outgrows all others at school; once home and outdoors, it really takes off, but again no one listens to Bess until nearly fall, when Charlie finally identifies the giant: a sunflower. And Bess, too has grown, as Mother points out—``Why,'re not too small...You are our own dear Bess.'' A warm, nicely shaped story about self-acceptance. Hoban's cozy, cartoon-style illustrations are just right. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
MAKE ROOM FOR ELISA by Johanna Hurwitz
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Russell's little sister (``E'' Is for Elisa, 1991), now five, helps Russell through an embarrassing moment at his violin recital; gets eyeglasses; finds herself locked in the bathroom of the family's new apartment; learns a lesson about admitting wrongdoing; and, finally, welcomes a new baby brother. The episodic chapter format makes this latest in the series about an urban family and their neighbors an ideal readaloud for young children, who will identify with the need to imitate an older sib. For transitional readers, its protagonist may seem too young, while the action lacks excitement. A humorous, recognizable portrayal of family life, with Hoban's characteristic b&w sketches to add dimension. (Fiction. 4- 8) Read full book review >
ARTHUR'S CAMP-OUT by Lillian Hoban
Released: April 30, 1993

In a ninth ``I Can Read'' about the popular Arthur, his smug superiority to little sister Violet is almost overstated; still, his gentle comeuppance makes a satisfying outcome. Boasting of his planned field trip, Arthur describes ``snakes—slimy things you would not like,'' but Violet responds, mildly, ``A girl in my class brought in a snake she caught...It wasn't a bit slimy. I held it in my hand.'' Arthur sets out on his trip while Violet and her friends camp out nearby, turning down his offer to ``protect'' them in the woods at night. Left alone, it's Arthur who's scared, especially of bats; the girls take him in, but not without a lecture on bats' ecological virtues. The good humor of Hoban's naturally cadenced dialogue and realistic detail mellows the message, while the childlike characters are as likable in her full-color mixed media art as in the text. (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >
'E' IS FOR ELISA by Johanna Hurwitz
Released: Sept. 20, 1991

These six easily read chapters about the four-year-old sister of Russell, one of Hurwitz's favorite characters, are appropriate for precocious readers and listeners as well as for Russell's third-grade contemporaries. Each chapter stands alone, though they are linked by several themes. Elisa, given to easy tears, is dubbed ``Crybaby'' by her unsympathetic brother when she blinks at a photographer's flash, but after she imitates him by jumping from the bureau and breaks her arm, he vows to reform. Meanwhile, there have been incidents with the tooth fairy; with a blizzard when Aldo, Nora, and other familiar neighborhood kids join in the fun of an unexpected holiday; and with a February bathing suit that Elisa can't resist wearing to nursery school- -plus some nice sibling interaction as Russell introduces Elisa to reading. Hurwitz has a rare understanding of four-year-old concerns, disarmingly presented to appeal to both preschoolers and the siblings who feel superior to them. Fans are sure to enjoy this latest entry in a popular series. (Fiction. 4-10)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1972

Besides the favorite "Soft-Boiled" from Bread and Jam for Frances (1964), 21 new poems with the same fresh but familiar appeal of the Frances stories. Who won't get a shock of recognition from "Homework sits on top of Sunday, squashing Sunday flat"? or sympathize with Frances' troubles with her little sister: "No one ever thinks she's tricky./ She spilled honey on the floor — / Mother found me very sticky./ Gloria was out the door./ When I caught her no one hit her./ I got spanked because I bit her/ Ear, that little Gloria sister./ Still, I guess I would have missed her."? As is evident above (and elsewhere — "I know kids who do not kick/ Stones down roads or even pick/ Sea-glass up on beaches"), Frances likes to end her rhymed lines in mid-sentence, which gives them a comfortably bumpy feel that nicely maintains her amateur status. Frances' songs will make new friends for the little badger, and keep some old ones who are outgrowing the picture books. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1970

Trustful badger Frances triumphs in her I Can Read debut, to the chagrin of out-maneuvered Thelma and the accompaniment of some of her best songs: "Careful once, careful twice,/ Being careful isn't nice./ Being friends is better." Her mother had warned her that "when you play with Thelma you always get the worst of it," but Frances' resolve to save for a real china tea set yields to Thelma's dire tale of "another girl who saved up for that tea set. . . So maybe you won't get one." So maybe she'd better buy Thelma's plastic one with her two dollars and seventeen cents. . . and "No backsies." But little sister Gloria's friend got the very set Frances wanted at the candy store yesterday, and showed it to Thelma—who is next seen, by a crushed Frances, purchasing one with Frances' savings. "Now that plastic's what I've got/ Backsies are what there is not./ Mother told me to be careful,/ But Thelma better bewareful." Of one of the oldest tricks in any book, the decoy coin. A contretemps that bespeaks an older Frances as befits the older audience and will keep any audience in stitches—it's that funny line after line. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 5, 1968

At the end of The Little Brute Family, the Brutes change their name—and nature—to Nice; bringing 'em back bad poses problems that don't apply to most repeats. . . Sister Brute, wanting something to love, adopts a stone—she draws it a face. dresses it, and atones it Alice Brute Stone; she is adopted by an ugly dog wearing hob-nailed boots who wants someone to love him. But the doll is hard and heavy and the dog keeps kicking and Sister Brute has only tiredness and braises for her love, Mama Brute, confronted with the problem, is stymied until she looks at Alice Brute Stone's face; it is just like hers. "You could love me." she says, "and I will give you soft hugs and sing you lullabies." Each of the family, Sister Brute learns, has a special offering; she will love them all and Alice Brute Stone and the ugly kicking dog too. . . In the perfunctory introduction to the family. Mama and Papa seem typical impatient, preoccupied parents, funny-looking but not loutish enough to be funny to the child who's meeting them for the first time. On the other hand, the youngster who remembers their reform will wonder how come they're so nice before becoming Nice. It's a questionable parallel of the original with some undeniably touching images—Sister Brute fondling Alice Brute Stone; the buck-toothed yellow dog, really a rejected toy, claiming her affection because she pays attention to him; and Mama Brute seeing her own face in the stone. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1966

There hasn't been anything in ages that concentrates on etiquette and inter-family courtesy. Of course, the Hobans can be relied on never to attack the subject in sobersided formation; as they did in their Frances books, they tease their way to the point. Mrs. Hoban's Brutes are arresting and in full color — blob-nosed, bristle-haired, snaggle-toothed, they combine the worst features of Wallace Beery and W.C. Fields. The result is paradoxically appealing. The Brutes never say "Please" or "Thank you" and at the table they are especially...well, brutish. There, they howl between spoonfuls, kick each other, make faces and snarl. "Then one day Baby Brute found a little wandering lost good feeling in a field of daisies." He brought it home, shared it with his family and their transformation is so astonishing that they change their name to Nice. Very nice. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 27, 1965

Hester a well-dressed mouse, is handsomely illustrated as an appealing mouse housekeeper. She lived in a cage in a writer's office and had convinced herself that her running on the treadmill activated her writer's typing. An egomanaical owl, who had been dining off Hester's equally well-dressed relatives, kidnapped her, cage and all, and dictated his autobiography to her. Rescued by her writer, Hester pretends to read the owl a flattering account of himself from the writer's typed pages. Gratified, the owl promises to take her nearest and dearest off his diet. Later, for her relatives, Hester reads what her writer really wrote: "This is the story of Hester Mouse, who became a writer and saved most of her sisters and brothers and some of her aunts and uncles and cousins from the owl." Terribly contrived, isn't it? And, since the quoted line appears as the sub-title on the jacket and as the first line of the text, the story is really given away before it ever happens. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 9, 1964

Frances the badger always faces life with an original song on her lips. She composes with calculation, as in Bedtime for Frances and A Baby Sister for Frances, leaving her alert parents to get the musical message. This time Mother and Father Badger guide her through one of the most maddening stages of childhood. It all starts when Frances croons to her breakfast egg that "I do not like the way you slide,/ I do not like your soft inside..." and makes inroads on the bread and jam. Frances passes up some mouthwatering menus that day and sticks to her self imposed diet with perfect juvenile logic: she won't try anything new because "... when I have bread and jam, I always know what I am getting and I am always pleased." From that point on, Frances gets nothing but bread and jam and her eating problem is completely cured by the saturation method. The lunch she carries to school becomes really chi-chi-gourmet. The Hobans have done it again: a sly text attacking a real juvenile problem and attractive illustrations. Read full book review >
NOTHING TO DO by Lillian Hoban
Released: Aug. 26, 1964

.. is the complaint of Walter Possum starting at 6 o'clock in the morning when he drags his father out of bed. After making a few futile suggestions such as playing with toys and raking leaves, Father Possum gives his son a special something-to-do stone. Immediately Walter comes up with some hot ideas, and even though the stone is quickly mislaid he is still thinking up nice, wholesome projects, including presenting his bothersome younger sister with a play-right-here stick. This is a simple but pleasantly told activity story with delightful pencil drawings of the Possum family. Read full book review >
Released: April 8, 1964

The comical kids, typified in other Hoban books (e.g. Some Snow Said Hello, 1963, p. 312, J-106), go through one day on a mad rampage and face judgment when father walks in after a "sorely trying day" at work. The buck is passed quickly from Dora to Frank and on down the line until it settles on the cat, who tries to blame the mouse. The cat finally accepts the blame and apologizes to the dog... thus the reaction works in reverse. The tale is slight, but Mr. Hoban's clever use of words coupled with Mrs. Hoban's pencil drawings of the stubby Victorian looking family forms a highly amusing book which will also appeal to adults. Read full book review >
Released: May 22, 1963

The authors of The Song in My Drum (1962, p. 55, J 21) and other artistic books, here gently poke fun at two small girls and their brother who are complaining about their nothing-to-do situation; the snow is wet, and there is nothing to do but argue (You kicked me— You hit me— You made her cry). The authors understand the delightful wrong-reasoning of children, as shown in the questions they ask each other—the answers they give (Can't a cake be cut into quarters or dollars? Does a hot dog have to be named Frank?). Even contemporaries of these three may catch the satirical overtones in the brief, pointed conversation. A gloomy day becomes nice when the children pull on large boots and heavy clothing to go outside and play— to sled and build a snowman. The illustrations, like the carefully written text, seem perfect, capturing both the wondrous and comical aspects of the children's world. A spontaneous, alive picture of sibling fumbles, stumbles,—and close comradeship, which both adults and children will appreciate. Read full book review >