Books by Lynne Barasch

FIRST COME THE ZEBRA by Lynne Barasch
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

After the rainy season, Kenya's animals work in concert, each type eating from a specific niche of the lush grasslands, shown here in appealing, expansive ink-and-watercolor illustrations. This sets the stage for the story of Abaani, a young Maasai herder, and Haki, a Kikuyu farm boy who works in a market stall, in a picture book with nonfiction flavor. The two groups are at odds over land use, so the boys initially exchange angry insults. Thrown together in a moment of danger, the two work together to save a toddler caught in the path of warthogs, which makes both reconsider the aforementioned hatred. Gradually, a friendship and a partnership form, inspiring the boys to hope that their families and people will find a similar way to appreciate one another and share Kenya's resources. Thought-provoking if a little blue-sky optimistic, this tale of Kenya serves as an accessible exploration of the concept of tribal disputes and more general themes of friendship and conflict resolution. A nice choice for classroom use and home reading. (map, author's note, glossary, source notes) (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH by Mona Kerby
ADVENTURE
Released: May 7, 2008

Going back to contemporary sources, Kerby retraces the travels of a stray terrier who became the semi-official mascot of the U.S. Postal Service in the 1890s and who, aboard ship and train, escorted mailbags to hundreds of destinations around the world. She sticks largely to facts—finding that accounts of how he got his name differ, she doesn't try to explain its origin, for instance—but does tuck in occasional invented details to smooth the narrative. Although the text notes that his preserved body is still on display at the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., it neglects to mention that he met his end by violence. Ever alert and sporting a harness increasingly covered in tags attached at his many stopovers, the small dog makes an engaging centerpiece in Barasch's watercolor sketches. His tale has been told several times for younger audiences, most recently in Irene Kelly's A Small Dog's Big Life (2005); still, dog lovers will lap up this latest iteration. (photos, research note, sources) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
HIROMI’S HANDS by Lynne Barasch
BIOGRAPHY
Released: March 1, 2007

Barasch frames this profile of Hiromi Suzuki, a childhood friend of her daughter's who grew up to be an itamae-san, or professional sushi chef, as both an American story and a first-person tale of a young woman's success in a trade traditionally dominated by men. Transferred in 1964 from Tokyo to the New York branch of his restaurant, Kamehachi, Hiromi's father Akira found his new home to be a place of "big cars, big portions, big opportunities!" So he was receptive when, years later, his daughter expressed an eagerness to accompany him to the early-morning fish market on Fulton Street, and then to learn how to make perfect nigiri sushi (seafood over pressed rice) and maki sushi (sushi rolls) for the small restaurant he had opened. In delicately lined watercolors, Barasch not only warmly portrays her human cast, but also presents mouthwatering galleries of sushi and of the varieties of seafood from which it is made. A glossary and pronunciation guide, a portrait photo and a brief wrap-up close what will be for most young readers a fascinating family story. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)Read full book review >
ASK ALBERT EINSTEIN by Lynne Barasch
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 7, 2005

When seven-year-old April sees her adored older sister Annabel struggling with her trigonometry, she appeals to Albert Einstein for help. April ingenuously narrates the story, which takes place in 1952 and is based on an actual historical incident. This is promising enough stuff, but Barasch's tale just tries too hard to be complete. April's quest for help for her sister takes her to the library, where she reads "a lot of confusing stuff." Not understanding it, but writing it down anyway, April attempts to distill such complex matters as the theory of relativity—a well-meaning effort that is likely to baffle her readers. That Einstein comes through in the end will not surprise those readers, but they are as unlikely to understand the answer he provides as they are the initial trigonometry problem. The concept is appealing enough—famous scientist helps kid—and the loose watercolor vignettes ably convey both Annabel's anxiety and April's desire to help, but the narrative's attempt to convey even the bare bones of Einstein's theory serves only to confuse the readers it hopes to communicate with. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
COMMON SENSE AND FOWLS by Jane Cutler
ANIMALS
Released: April 11, 2005

Mrs. Krnc is feeding the pigeons again and this makes Mr. Gioia angry. Mr. Gioia and the neighbors wonder if Mrs. Krnc is slightly crazy. They make a drastic decision to sell her house and use the money to put her in a retirement home. Rachel and her friend Brian, featured in Family Dinner (1995), see this plan as unjust. They visit Mrs. Krnc and learn that she isn't nuts, but vastly lonely since her husband's death. Next, a visit to Mr. Gioia reveals his boredom since retirement. With the help of Rachel's Uncle Benson and gentle persuasion on the part of Rachel and Brian, Mr. Gioia comes up with a much kinder plan that benefits everyone. As things are neatly wrapped up, it seems a little too tidy. The result, however, is a thought-provoking story that unfolds with amiable drawings and a flipbook bonus. Rachel and Brian ultimately learn that gathering all the facts is essential to any fair plan and that having an open mind will always serve everyone best. (Fiction. 7-11)Read full book review >
A COUNTRY SCHOOLHOUSE by Lynne Barasch
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 11, 2004

When Grandpa went to school in the 1940s, there were only three rooms for eight grades, no indoor bathroom or cafeteria, and a wood-burning stove to keep the kids warm. His grandson loves hearing the stories about the small country school and especially how Grandpa was the smartest until fifth grade, when the new girl beat him in the yearlong spelling bee. In an intimate style akin to Radio Rescue, both text and sketchy watercolors have a charming innocence that conveys a peek into the past without being overly nostalgic, sappy, or maudlin. A child-friendly history lesson made relevant with details like built-in inkwells, lunch boxes, flypaper strips, and peeing in the snow, proving that kids in a small country school learned better than those in a big city school. Map endpapers create the setting and the ending sets up the next story. A+. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
KNOCKIN’ ON WOOD by Lynne Barasch
BIOGRAPHY
Released: May 1, 2004

Little Clayton Bates loved to dance. "He had no shoes, so he danced barefoot. He had no music, so he made dance rhythms by clapping his hands and tapping his feet." This down-home opening sets the stage for the remarkable career of Peg Leg Bates, a black vaudevillian who lost his leg in a cottonseed mill at the age of 12, but who went on to become one of the most accomplished dancers in show business. Line-and-watercolor illustrations depict a smiling Bates tapping his way from black-only audiences to the Ed Sullivan show, movies, and even a star turn for George VI, the text emphasizing how his love for dancing kept him going in the face of bigotry. It's a very neat story, told briefly but effectively; the illustrations are full of movement and flair, though one might wish for more facial details to differentiate individuals. Where this offering truly fails, however, is in its utter lack of documentation; there's not even an author's note to fill in the gaps (though an excellent black-and-white photograph of Bates attests to his exuberance). A real pity. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-10)Read full book review >
THE RELUCTANT FLOWER GIRL by Lynne Barasch
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 31, 2001

April's big sister Annabel is her best friend, even though she's older. "Once I brought Annabel to my school for show-and-tell," she confides. "And once she brought me to her office to staple papers together." But when Annabel's boyfriend Harold proposes, April is pretty upset. Even though she gets to be flower girl and help Annabel pick out her wedding dress, she tries to sabotage the whole thing in regular kid ways: she spills ketchup on Harold and hides her pet snake in the bathroom when he goes to clean up. But the day of the wedding, when the ring pops from the best man's hand to roll out of sight, it's April who spots it and saves the day. And when she goes up to her now single room, she finds a very loving note from her sister and her husband, promising sleepovers—and mallomars. The illustrations are energetic ink-and-watercolors, full of roses and wedding paraphernalia, and the sisters, while far apart in age, share red hair and impish expressions. Pair with Gary Soto's Snapshots from the Wedding (1997) for a child's-eye look at a family celebration. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
RADIO RESCUE by Lynne Barasch
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 10, 2000

In this admiring memoir of her father as a young ham radio operator in New York City during the 1920s, Barasch pulls readers into the initiate world of Morse code and early intercontinental communications. Not many children bitten by the radio bug went on to get their amateur operator's license, but Barasch's father did. She charts his progress—and illustrates it with finely descriptive pen-and-wash artwork—of drumming the dots and dashes into his subconscious, memorizing international code words, then taking the test. He becomes the chum of another, local operator, an older boy who takes the younger under his wing and regales him with a story of how he figured in the rescue of a mother and child when a neighboring apartment house took fire. Together they build a station for Barasch's father, where he lets rip his first code and ultimately stars in his own slice of heroism when he passes along vital information as a hurricane pounds distant Florida. Barasch does an impressive job here. Through her warm, transporting watercolors and her stout text, she manages to turn the world of dots and dashes—hardly the obvious stuff of a compelling narrative—into a tour of a time and an enthusiasm worth taking again and again. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
OLD FRIENDS by Lynne Barasch
ANIMALS
Released: April 13, 1998

Barasch (A Winter Walk, 1993, etc.) introduces the notion of reincarnation and demonstrates that friendship reaches beyond death, offering a comforting idea of what the afterlife may hold. Henrietta has outlived all her friends, and dearly misses her best friend since childhood, Anna. One day, she hears someone ask ``Henrietta, don't you know me?'' and it proves to be Anna, embodied in a furball of a Scottish terrier, out for a walk. Their daily walks together conjure up pleasant memories from the past, until one day, Henrietta does not arrive to walk Anna. A new dog appears on the scene, becoming fast friends with Anna, and leaving no doubt as to its true identity. Pen-and-ink drawings with a pale watercolor wash reflect the modesty of the text, though its emotions run deep and true. Literal-minded readers may have trouble with the more esoteric notion of returning after death in the form of an animal; in its tone and subject, this book is a kindred spirit to Margaret Wild's Old Pig, and may also require further explanation from caring adults. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
A WINTER WALK by Lynne Barasch
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

Barasch's second is a marked contrast to the whimsically clever plotting of her debut book, Rodney's Inside Story (1992): on a gray day, Sophie's mom takes her outdoors to ``find the color of winter'': the red of berries still clinging to trees, the fields' ``rust...and yellow...lavender...and gold,'' the brook's blue, a rabbit's brown eyes, and, at the end of their walk, the white of falling snow. The simple text is nicely visualized in Barasch's double-spread watercolors, where the gentle colors and somber contrasts that give a winter's day in the country its subtle, rich bloom are carefully balanced and brought together. A quiet book with special appeal for the observant child. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
RODNEY'S INSIDE STORY by Lynne Barasch
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

An engaging tale about a little gray bunny whose mother reads him an imaginative story-within-the-story: a book about Rodney Rabbit, who lives in a cabbage and has an eggplant desk, an onionskin toy plane, carrot stilts, etc.—all charmingly realized in the author's gentle pen-and-watercolor illustrations. Rodney even has a book about ``a little gray rabbit who looks just like you,'' which his mother reads to him: a more conventional anthropomorphization, but with the same vegetables still starring—this time as food. Clever and amusing, a satisfying bedtime story that ends with both little rabbits tucked into bed after enjoying their books, Rodney with his head on a cauliflower. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >