Books by Mark Karlins

Released: April 1, 2009

Lorenzo Fortunato is the odd-egghead-out in a family of performers. While the others juggle, play banjos and crack wise, Lorenzo bumbles about, his head full of equations and space travel. His twin sisters taunt his ineptness—not mercilessly, but enough to give the story a realistic bite, which is softened by Nichols's brisk, retro-flavored watercolors. More to Lorenzo's liking, he fires up his spaceship and flies with Albert Einstein (who's as likely as Howdy Doody to be recognizable to the publisher's target audience of three- to five-year-olds) to distant galaxies, where the stars sing and the hippopotami are tiny and blue. Less to his liking, he misses his family. Albert understands ("Everybody needs a family"), and the two crash land their craft in the midst of a family performance—a neat piece of showmanship—and loving embraces ensue. Karlins's finale may be clangingly unsubtle—there never seemed to be much of an issue that Lorenzo's parents adored their little incompetent—but it also has a hug of inclusiveness that Walt Whitman would have admired. Every family needs an eccentric. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
MENDEL'S LADDER by Mark Karlins
Released: May 1, 1995

Though it often reads with the warm familiarity of a tale by a yarn-spinning grandparent, this overlong picture book by the author of Salmon Moon (not reviewed) fails to connect. During the long, dry summer in Flatbush (yeah, Brooklyn), Mendel decides to take action. He builds a ladder to the clouds in search of the Rainmaker. The Rainmaker is named Maxwell Butterbarrel, who sits in an overstuffed chair, drinks tea, reads the paper, and feels unappreciated. With the encouragement of a little sesame seed candy from Mendel's father (who, with Mendel's mother, climbed up to keep an eye on their only child), Max passes out some sparkler wheels, they all make lightning, and it rains. The art is the real star here; Greenstein's pastel-colored monoprints vibrate with childlike immediacy and primitive vitality. Despite the folklore echoes, the attenuated story ultimately overwhelms the pictures and few will be able to hang in for that inevitable happy ending. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >