Books by Mark Graham

Released: Sept. 18, 2012

"Ruthless and remorseless James Bond-ian escapades, sans skirt-chasing intervals, in the name of Western ideals."
In Simmons and Graham's (The Missing Sixth, 2011, etc.) spy thriller, Jake Conlan is called back undercover. Read full book review >
NAUGHTY CHÉRIE! by Joyce Carol Oates
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

Continuing one of the more unfortunate pairings in modern picture books, Oates and Graham re-team for a third kitten-centered tale. Little Chérie's the prettiest of Momma Cat's kittens and Evan's favorite, but she causes the most trouble. When her owner sits Little Chérie in a corner for being bad, the grey tabby escapes to "Little Friends Kindercare" a circus big top of baby zoo animals whose naughtiness teaches Little Chérie to be good. Knowing Oates's award-winning work for older audiences, readers might interpret the precious prose and overreliance on exclamation points to be an avant garde literary experiment. Would that it were. Graham's somber, sentimental art works against the sugary, upbeat text. Little Chérie walks into the Kindercare and thinks, "What a strange, happy place!" The full-bleed, two-page spread shows small, realistically rendered animals in a soft blue-and-grey open space with five tiny balloons. Even lovers of the sweet-kitten genre will be better served with an extra copy of Jane Cabrera's Kitty's Cuddles (April 2007). (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Proving that facility with words does not necessarily stretch to meet all audiences, master novelist Oates proffers a clunky, sentimental tale of a shy little kitten who finds bravery. Little Reynard is the smallest and orangest of Momma's kittens and becomes Lily's favorite. His more forceful brothers and sisters brush him aside until one night when he plays with some foxes, a peculiarly transformative experience. Punctuated by no fewer than 17 exclamation points, the text is full of breathless authorial intrusions that seem more suited to children's books of the early half of the last century: "They had missed him so!" Graham's lavish, full-bleed illustrations are every bit as sentimental as the text, in a perfect and highly unfortunate match of pictures and words. It is nothing short of amazing that so acute a stylist for adults and young adults can produce such a patronizing text—many readers may find themselves wishing that little Rusty and Flora Fox had behaved like proper foxes and snacked upon Little Reynard instead of playing with him. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
MISS OPAL’S AUCTION by Susan Vizurraga
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

A young narrator remembers the good times she had with her old friend, Miss Opal, as she watches an auctioneer sell her friend's things. Miss Opal is moving. "I'm choosing a place now . . . while I've still got sense enough to choose it myself. Besides, I won't have room for all these things . . ." Each piece that the auctioneer sells evokes a memory for Annie: the recipe book with its many notes marking her favorite cookies; the old radio she tuned to the Saturday baseball game; and the ice-cream mixer with the hand crank that Miss Opal used for blueberry ice cream from the blueberries that Annie picked. The memories overcome Annie and she realizes just how much she will miss her friend. Finally, though the recipe book has been sold, Miss Opal buys it back and presents it to her young friend, though why she didn't just give it to her in the first place is never explained. The rhythmic text smoothly moves back and forth in time. The oil paintings, with predominant colors of blues and purples, capture a sun-drenched day perfectly while at the same time providing a nostalgic air. Annie is a blonde, blue-eyed little girl in a bright aqua dress, with white shoes and socks, furthering the old-fashioned look of the pictures. It is interesting to note that Miss Opal and her friends watching the auction from the porch are African-American while all of the people who come to the auction are white. A quiet read-aloud story with lovely pictures and a sweet message about intergenerational friendship. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
SARAH'S SLEEPOVER by Bobbie Rodriguez
Released: May 1, 2000

A nighttime blackout allows a gathering of cousins to share for a brief spell in the blindness of a young girl. Sarah looks forward to sleepover weekend when all her female relatives come for the night. On this particular occasion, after the parents have gone for a visit to a neighbor's house, the lights go out. Sarah, who delivers a gentle reality check, noting that being in the dark is business as usual for her, quiets the shrieks and howls of the girls. She leads everyone downstairs to the telephone to call the neighbor (whose number she knows by heart), identifies various noises that go bump in the night—birders will be dismayed to see a great horned owl called a "barn owl"—and generally defuses all the terror. Indeed, when the parents return and change the blown fuse, the girls shout to turn off the lights; all that illumination is interfering with their fun. It is a provocative notion that Rodriguez tenders here: the qualitatively different emotional response one has to the dark if it is brought about by external forces or the closing of one's eyes. Graham's familiar lush artwork ably conveys the dark's unctuous feel. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE DREAM JAR by Bonnie Pryor
Released: March 1, 1996

The trials of the immigrant get delicate handling from Pryor (Birthday Blizzard, 1993, etc.) in this tale of a Russian family's move to New York City's Lower East Side in the first part of this century. Young Valentina never hears her father sing as he used to in the old country. He toils hard all day in pursuit of a dream: owning his own store. Mama takes on piece work and Valentina's brother, Michael, quits school to add his hard-earned dollars to the glass dream jar. Valentina—too young to work—finds a way to contribute by teaching English to her neighbors at night for ten cents a week. Eventually, the store becomes a reality. The American dream come true, with a cherry on top. Has this gold been mined too often? It's a sweet story, but not entirely original, and it may be the first time that the immigrant experience has looked prettier than an impressionist painting. Graham's soft-edged scenes are so hopeful they nearly burst with expectancy. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
MY FATHER'S HANDS by Joanne Ryder
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

A poet who has frequently celebrated nature in her picture books evokes a child's relationship with her father and the gentle example he sets her by his own relationship with the natural world. The lyrical narrative focuses on the father's hands as he works in the garden: As they lift, the hands are strong; as they dig, they are covered with earth, without apology; always, they are capable. When they reach for something interesting—a ``pink circle of worm,'' a snail, a mantis—``I bend closer,/knowing that/ nothing within/my father's hands/will harm me.'' Wide-eyed, a little hesitant in Graham's lush, romantic paintings, the little girl takes the mantis in her hands to gaze in wonder at a being ``so bold, so strange'' and wonders what it thinks of her; when it scampers across her shoulder before they let it go free, she grins with delight. Just so it should be, with trust passed from generation to generation. Lovely. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
LUCY COMES TO STAY by Rosemary Wells
Released: June 1, 1994

Lucy, a tiny Scottish terrier, is adorable, but she has a lot to learn. Mary Elizabeth is with her at every step—curling up with the woebegone pup in her crate (Lucy isn't allowed in the child's bed); wearing old shoes after Lucy chews her new ones; bathing the pup after she tangles with a pen (``she was too blue to scold''). The outlines may be familiar, but this child and her dog are as winsomely persistent as Wells's beloved Max; readers won't be surprised when Lucy finally gets a turn in her small mistress's bed. Graham catches every bit of the story's charm and humor in freely rendered oils that echo Renoir in their deft modeling and use of light (though Mary Elizabeth has more spunk than Renoir's placid beauties). A natural for sharing aloud. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE FIRE THEFT by Mark  Graham
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Drugs, politics, a bit of sex, and a lot of archaeology provide the international thrills in an international thriller by the author of The Missing Sixth (1992), etc. Crossing the English Channel on a clapped-out ferry, mysterious pilot and international femme fatale Jaymin Bartel is witness to highly suspicious behavior on the part of a Middle Eastern passenger. The young man accosts an attractive preteen and forces her to accept a metal cylinder, which, following orders, she tucks into her backpack. Following that odd bit of business, the potential terrorist proceeds to sink the ferry by opening the doors several hundred yards short of Dover. After dramatically rescuing numerous passengers, Jaymin pairs up with renowned American archaeologist Stephen Kaine, the understandably distressed father of Angela, the girl with the metal tube in her backpack. Together, Stephen and Jaymin and a gruff but kindly Scottish tugboat skipper effect the rescue of Angela from the ferry's submerged loo. In the beginning of a seemingly endless string of eerie coincidences, it turns out that Jaymin, to whom Stephen is powerfully attracted, is working for people who want very much for Stephen not to have that metal tube that was rescued along with Angela. The tube contains an ancient map of the long-lost Turko-Persian city that Stephen found and from which he was removed under shocking circumstances. If the map is to be believed, Stephen could clear up some 3000-year-old hanky-panky on the part of the Persian monarchy. But any clearing up of mysteries will be dependent on Stephen and Angela's survival in the face of relentless, murderous pursuit by Jaymin's employers- -a team of wickedly bent American spies and diplomats who have been working a deal to swap antique gold for present-day opium. Jaymin's flying skills will eventually become crucial. A rousing beginning degenerates into a long and not very exciting series of well-timed and eventually predictable coincidences amidst some attractive scenery. Read full book review >
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT by Louisa May Alcott
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A few revealing fragments: excerpts from the diary Alcott started at ten; her mother's responses to it; Louisa's own comments, added as an adult (when she destroyed much of the original diary); letters; and parallel quotes from Little Women (pairing Beth's death with Alcott's account of her sister Lizzie's—the only entry dating from her 20s—is particularly poignant; in its simplicity and directness, the diary is even more eloquent). In step with recent biographers, Ryan's commentary and selections present the Alcott family as troubled: Bronson's vaunted Socratic method is seen as virtual bullying, his wife's exhaustion such that Louisa's lifelong ambition was to alleviate her toil, and Louisa herself bedeviled with the impossibility of being ``good'' (suppressing her emotions). Still, Little Women is not an untruth; it's one side of a complex story, and Ryan makes it clear that the Alcotts were creative, loyal, and genuinely affectionate. Graham's rather misty, generalized paintings reflect the sunnier side and—while pretty- -don't do justice to Alcott's and Ryan's honesty. Attractive, enlightening, carefully wrought. Chronology; sources; index. (Biography. 10-14) Read full book review >
HOME BY FIVE by Ruth Wallace-Brodeur
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

The rink closes at 4:30, and Papa says there will be no excuses for being late—it's only a four-block walk. Rosie does her best—she doesn't go into the bakery or slide on the ice—but she does have a knot in her skate lace, lingers while pondering a rhyme she makes up about a cat in a window, and takes in Mrs. Damon's newspaper so that it won't get snowed on. Half an hour late! Happily, Mama and Papa accept her explanations and come up with a solution to her tardiness: a watch. Perceptive and simply told, a warmhearted story appropriately illustrated with gentle impressionistic paintings. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
WILDERNESS CAT by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

When they move 50 miles north into Canada, Papa decrees that Moses, Hannah's beloved cat, must stay behind: he ``would only jump out [of the cart] and run away.'' But next winter, with Papa off earning food and Mama and the younger children at the end of their provisions, Moses proves himself in the classic tradition by showing up with a snowshoe rabbit. Kinsey-Warnock (The Canada Geese Quilt, 1989, ALA Notable) brings authentic, well-selected details to her simple, graceful account, while, in the spirit of Renoir, Graham's lush, impressionistic paintings idealize the woodland frontier and winsome children. He's not always literally accurate (snowshoe rabbits aren't white in summer; some of these primeval trees are incredibly huge), but the art suits the warmly appealing story. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

The theft of five paintings from the house of a South African collector is the catalyst for a complex plot of murder, forgery, and political intrigue. Since he doesn't want to report the theft officially, the paintings' owner, Sir Cas Greyling, asks alcoholic Michael Meade, a once-glittering American reporter playing out his last chance, to track down whoever hired the four thieves and then killed them before they left the grounds. In practically no time, Meade has identified Greyling's houseguest Rita Hess for the theft and gallery-owner Farrell DeBruin's father Gideon, an inner-circle member of the spiderlike secret society the Broederbond, as the killer. But the further Meade looks, the more complicated the case gets. The most valuable of the paintings—a Vermeer that was the thieves' real target—was almost certainly a forgery. They didn't want the painting, but a mysterious document hidden inside it, something called the missing sixth dating back to the Nazi seizure of the Vermeer. And Meade and his allies—Farrell DeBruin and black South African reporter Cam Fazzie—get caught in a murderous, three-continent cross-fire between Gideon, who doesn't mind kidnaping both Meade's son Sean and his own daughter to keep up the pressure on Meade, and the Broederbond stalwarts who don't want Gideon taking over. Maybe a little too helter-skelter in its closing sections- -Graham (The Harbinger, 1988) has the extraordinary idea that Jerusalem's Western Wall would be an easy place to smuggle a bomb- -but richly, compulsively readable until its last surprising twist. Read full book review >
Released: June 26, 1991

A little girl takes the reader on a tour of the farm where she has always lived, confiding her experiences with the babies in the various animal families and concluding with her own new brother. The text here is relatively uneventful, but the mild incidents recounted will interest young listeners. Using broad brush strokes, a relaxed style, and impressionistic tones, Graham creates an appealingly romantic effect in his luminous paintings (but someone should show this child how to give a horse an apple without imperiling her fingers). A pleasant farm visit. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >