Books by Linda Oatman High

Released: Feb. 14, 2017

"Interesting but uneven. (Fiction. 8-12)"
A middle-grade friendship and family story plays out against a circus backdrop. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"So swiftly do the pages turn, however, the story may stay with readers, but the poetry probably won't. (Verse fiction. 12-18)"
An outcast at school and within her own family, "Lexi / (rhymes with sexy) / Mcleen, sixteen," articulates a life of desperation and determination in this verse novel. Read full book review >
OTHERWISE by Linda Oatman High
Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"More likely to confuse than to provoke thought. (Dystopian romance/verse. 12-16)"
In a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law. Read full book review >
PLANET PREGNANCY by Linda Oatman High
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

When she sees that fateful pink line, 16-year old Sahara knows that life as she knew it, life as a West Texas Dixie Queen, is over. She hides her growing belly and vomit-breath, but navigating a strange new world, an alien preggo planet, leaves her terrified and frazzled. As Sahara wavers between whether to keep the baby or not, she sinks into depression, hiding in bed and oversized clothes. This first-person, free-verse narrative captures the fear and desperation of unplanned teen pregnancy. It also delivers a unique young-adult voice, one appropriately dulled by disillusionment but that also makes readers laugh. Sahara offers simmering, cynical summations of her unlucky circumstances that evoke pity and a few bittersweet chuckles. Clipped, conversational verse keeps Sahara's story, which High divides into three trimester sections, moving. Readers see subtle changes in Sahara's outlook as her pregnancy progresses, and she stops calling her baby "The Egg" or "The Fetus." Irregular, sing-songy rhyme may distract readers at times, but the realistic pull of both Sahara and her pregnancy will keep teens engaged, wondering if she'll end up calling the baby her own. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
TENTH AVENUE COWBOY by Linda Oatman High
Released: July 1, 2008

Set in 1910, this urban reverie will resonate with contemporary readers. When Ben moves with his family from a ranch in the West to New York City, he finds himself desperately lonely. He mourns the loss of his beloved plains and his dreams of becoming a cowboy. Until, that is, he hears about the Tenth Avenue Cowboys, city cowboys who ride through the streets warning citizens of approaching trains. Allowed to ride with one of the cowboys, Ben is back in his element. He still misses the plains, but he rediscovers enough of what he loves to enable him to reclaim his dreams and make peace with his new home. Farnsworth's muted oil paintings bestow a dreamy, nostalgic quality on carefully rendered scenes of early-20th-century New York. All told, this offering has the feel of a tale that has been passed down from generation to generation, based in truth but lovingly polished until the rougher parts are smoothed over and the magic in it shines. (author's note, glossary) (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2007

High builds on true events for this child's-eye view of the Civil War battle and its aftermath. His father having marched off to fight for the Union, seven-year-old Fred Thorn huddles down with his pregnant mother when the great battle begins to rage all around. Then, amid the devastation afterwards, he courageously pitches in to help her begin digging graves for the dead. Writer and artist both effectively capture the battle's scale and terror. High tells the tale in measured, intense free verse, paired to Filippucci's finely detailed paintings of wide, peaceful landscapes that are transformed into scenes of ruin, strewn with dead horses and shattered trees. Fred closes with his mother's later meeting with President Lincoln at the renowned dedication of the military cemetery, and the words of the Gettysburg Address. Readers will be touched and sobered by this deeply felt glimpse of battle, and what follows. (author's note) (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

When Cool Bopper, the saxophonist of the Snazzy Catz Jazz Club, loses his false teeth during a particularly impassioned scat, he loses his bop at the same time. Riding atop a beehive 'do to the ladies' room, they are mistakenly flushed, and with that calamity, the blues descends on Cool Bopper. High's exuberant text grooves on the musical possibilities of jazz, stringing together consonants and internal rhymes in a mellifluous celebration of sound: "Poor Cool Bopper / toted / his saxophone— / his golden bold / baritone saxophone" O'Brien's ink-and-watercolor illustrations pulse with energy, blending the curves of musical instruments into the architecture itself in a visual countermelody (an especially inspired cross-section of plumbing reveals a sewage system designed like a French horn). The resolution is sweetly satisfying: A morose Cool Bopper seeks solace by the seashore and finds his teeth blowing on a shell; a grin wider than the Hudson reveals that the bop is back. Not the weightiest tale on the shelves, but still good silly, be-boppin' fun. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

Written in an odd mix of rhymed and free verse, this middle-class-child's-eye view of the Blizzard of 1888 offers a compelling picture of the disaster and its aftermath. Though the young narrator is able to persuade her father to take her to the circus in Madison Square, by the time they're slogging home, "Our faces glazed crystal, / we battled the blizzard, / which was like a wild animal / rattling a cage, / attacking and fighting / all in a rage." From a priceless cover scene of tiny figures sliding across the frozen East River beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, to views of passengers being rescued from a stalled elevated train, Filipucci's neatly drawn city scenes effectively capture both the period look of New York's streets and the catastrophe's scale. But she does it in a lighthearted way that underscores the resilience of the city's residents. High links present and past at the end, noting that New York's electrical lines and public transportation went underground as a result of the storm. An absorbing lead-in to Jim Murphy's Blizzard! (2000). (author's note) (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2004

Plot summary alone cannot convey the awfulness of the poetry in this over-the-top melodrama. High-school graduate Laura Crapper changes her name to Sister Slam and heads out on a road trip in search of poetry slams with her friend Twig. Assured by their mutual admiration that their poetry will rock the world, the two arrive at the slam after a few inevitable mishaps due to a lack of preparation and no understanding of reality. Sister Slam insults the judge, whom they have coincidentally met in a gas station, and they lose, remaining fully convinced of their language abilities. They total their car, leaving them in the hands of rich, good-looking Jake, who invites them to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Naturally, this turns out peachy keen and the press is soon singing their praises after an impromptu reading in Tavern on the Green. Gauche and jabbing each other, the two soon have jobs and an apartment, but race home to dear old dad when they hear of his stroke. While the simplistic rhyming works, occasionally, the leaden cliché-ridden lines mostly clink and clank along. So bad it's almost campy. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

The attention-grabbing title, the intriguing cover, and the scene-setting subtitle will compel readers to take a look inside. Once there, they will be transported to Atlantic City, 1936, where Ivy Cordelia thinks she is the luckiest girl in the world. This is where she will spend the summer while her father takes photographs of the boardwalk. Best of the attractions—boxing kangaroos, card-playing cats, daredevils sitting on flagpoles, dancing tigers, sand artists, and human cannonballs—are the high-diving horses. Every day Ivy watches as a pretty teenaged girl in helmet and bathing suit sits astride a horse high on a platform and they plunge into a tank of water. Ivy is only eight, but she dreams of being one of those girls. The immediacy of the first-person voice and the magnetic force of the scenes are totally engaging, attributable, perhaps, to the fact that both author and illustrator have childhood experiences from Atlantic City (as explained in notes from each). Lewin's (Tooth and Claw, p. 235, etc.) note also describes how he created his illustrations in the style of linen postcards that were popular then by first making black-and-white paintings and then applying thin washes of color. The result is his familiar detailed realistic artwork with images that fully evoke the sights, stunts, and sounds of the place and time. Excellent page composition incorporates animation and movement into the panorama. The story and illustrations fuse together, placing readers at the scene and making them wish they were there, delightfully capturing the thrill of a unique time and place. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
A HUMBLE LIFE by Linda Oatman High
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

In a poetic look at life in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, High (Under New York, p. 184, etc.) takes the reader through the seasons, illuminating the existence of Plain People. Highlighting the lack of modern conveniences, this educational view begins with spring, a time for picking flowers, fishing, and plowing the land. In summer, the corn is shucked, the cows are milked, and when the long day ends, weary ones lie down for a restful night's sleep. A climatic shift and chromatic change in landscape produce autumn, where crops are preserved for winter meals and pumpkins are made ripe for selling. In winter, quilting by the fire and sipping hot chocolate prevent the cold from biting when anticipation for warmer days builds. Through all they've done to nurture their simple way of life with each new year, these folks know that a season or even a day is not complete without giving thanks to the Lord for all they have. A thin layer of oil clings to the canvas as cool shades and bright light spread across the fields as Farnsworth (Prairie School, p. 494, etc.) brings this community to life. Bold, brilliant colors are reserved for summer skies and winter quilts, while neutral shades and barely-there sketches give detail to the people, their land, and animals. Illustrations and prose magically come together in this rich view of a culture that's reminiscent of a peaceful dream. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
UNDER NEW YORK by Linda Oatman High
Released: March 15, 2000

Children, urban or otherwise, will marvel along with High (Barn Savers, 1999, etc.) at all that is to be found beneath New York City's "offices and theaters and stores," "families and homes and schools," "garbage and car horns and billboards." It's not just rocks, pipes, and cables, but rumored alligators and real elephants (the latter on their way under the Hudson River to a circus at Madison Square Garden), restaurants and subway stations, an immense water main still under construction, tunnels carrying everything from shoppers to trains. Rayevsky (Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid, 1999, etc.) incorporates photographs and children's drawings into a series of split-page, above-and-below-ground, urban cross-sections, some generic, others featuring recognizable landmarks. Penumbral colors, further darkened by thickly brushed outlines, convey the impression that city residents seldom see the sun, but no one here seems to mind it. Though not exactly an unqualified valentine to the city that never sleeps, this does afford a playful glimpse of its complexity. (afterword, personal comments from author and illustrator) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
BARN SAVERS by Linda Oatman High
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Readers will look upon old barns with new eyes after they encounter this straightforward picture book from High (The Beekeepers, 1998, etc.). A boy and his father learn how to recycle old barns that would otherwise be demolished. Instead of seeing the old barns as waste material, the father finds beauty in the rafters and beams that will be put to use in building new barns and houses that may endure for another century. The father passes on to his son a belief that the barn is a treasure, holding secrets to the past that can never be truly known; therefore, it deserves to be respectfully saved. As the gentle story unfolds, the son takes away new understanding, but also a time-worn weathervane. Lewin's realistic, detailed watercolors portray both the hard work involved in recycling old barns and his own respect for such buildings and their heritage. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
THE BEEKEEPERS by Linda Oatman High
Released: March 1, 1998

Honey-colored light pours down upon a young narrator and her grandfather as they climb into their heavy coveralls and walk during a spring morning to the bee yard. Checking the hives amid swirls of bees carrying multi-colored pods of gathered pollen, the girl visualizes the snow-white wax inside and recalls ``the sweet smell of spun honey,'' then has a nervous moment when her grandfather spots a new swarm clustered on a bough and invites her to capture it. Despite some anxiety, the transfer to an empty hive goes smoothly, and on the way back she is promised the first honey chunk of the season. Chayka scatters roughly life-sized bees and depictions of beekeepers' tools in the generous margins around the text, but his full-page oil paintings are more about the pleasure of sharing outdoor work on a beautiful day than the specific techniques of beekeeping. An idyllic episode, as comforting as the bees' sweet product. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
A CHRISTMAS STAR by Linda Oatman High
Released: Sept. 15, 1997

From High (Hound Heaven, 1995, etc.), a Christmas story set in the Depression features an element of mystery that may leave readers more puzzled than uplifted. Mama, Papa, and the narrator hitch their horse, Star, to an old-fashioned sleigh to make the Christmas Eve trip to town for church; Star has a pair of antlers tied on for the occasion. The child looks forward to the tree at the church, where gifts of mittens, oranges, and candy await, but when they arrive, they find that someone has stolen it all. The church service proceeds, stoically, but when the manger scene is set up, a mishap with a donkey sends the girl and her best friend, Emma, into the night to get Star. Outside they see ``a man in a cap and coat'' (portrayed in lackluster watercolors as Santa) heaving a large bag into the sleigh. Whatever readers surmise from the text—that this is either the person who has stolen the gifts and had second thoughts (along the lines of How the Grinch Stole Christmas) or another person entirely returning stolen goods—it's more odd than magical. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
HOUND HEAVEN by Linda Oatman High
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Orphaned Silver Nickles lives with her crusty grandfather, Pawpaw, in a tar-paper shanty. She wants a dog but Pawpaw says no, relenting only after a heart attack, and a chance to take stock. This quirky novel is satisfying despite its odd detachment from reality. The shack seems to be a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity, allaying any sense of grinding poverty. Dudley, a boy whose crush on Silver drives him to stalk her, comes across as merely eccentric. When a beauty contest crops up abruptly in the plot, there's no doubt Silver will win. Even the heart attack becomes an event from which Papaw emerges feeling better than ever. Holding it all together is Silver, a determined, wide-eyed optimist. Somehow, in the act of abandoning all credibility, High (Maizie, 1995, not reviewed) endows her story with sneaky, knock- you-over charm. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
MAIZIE by Linda Oatman High
Released: April 15, 1995

Maizie, 12, is older than her years; her mother left the family four years ago, right after sister Grace was born, and her silent, gloomy father has a drinking problem. Optimistic and hard- working, Maizie wants her family back together, her father to quit drinking, and a strawberry roan pony. But tragedy and disaster are always lurking; the family dog dies, she almost stabs her eye out, and her father accidently sets a neighbor's farm on fire. Vividly original details give Maizie's tale force, but it lacks a satisfying ending and consistent voice. The narrative veers unconvincingly between hillbilly colloquialism and lofty imagery; not that a girl from the Pennsylvania mountains can't have a poetic notion, but nothing Maizie says indicates that such thoughts are forthcoming, and so they always jar. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >