Books by Maryann Kovalski

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE MONSTER, MAMA? by Barbara Shook Hazen
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2006

Hazen offers a good answer to the eternal question, as well as a delightfully monstrous cast. Little Harry is happy when his mother croons "Euuu, my cute little monster child, / I love the way you warm my wild"—and considerably less so when she pays more attention to big bro Bruxley or little sister Bronwen. Sitting with him on his bed slab after the inevitable tantrum, she fields his titular query by asking him which of his creepy beasties he likes best: Tiny, Slimy or Whiny? Then she tosses his answer—"I love each the most but not the same"—back at him. Kovalski adds icky details (Harry's beasties are, for instance, a hedgehog, a slug and a bat respectively) to cozy subterranean settings featuring a stout, green-furred (one parent) family with a reptilian house pet and a revolting diet. Only the latest of several recent proofs that the long tradition of playing out familiar domestic issues with families of monsters is as active and effective as ever, this one is particularly well-imagined. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
MORNING GLORY MONDAY by Arlene Alda
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Mama, living on New York's Lower East Side in the 1930s with her husband and young daughter, is homesick for her native Italy. One summer day, to cheer her up, the family visits Coney Island, where the little girl wins a packet of seeds. Though the girl is disappointed in this less-than-hoped-for prize, she's astonished to discover that when the flowers eventually grow and proliferate, Mama's spirits bloom along with them. Soon the whole neighborhood is transformed by sky-blue bits of beauty; there are blossoms everywhere, and everyone's mood improves. Based on a true episode when residents of a Lower East Side neighborhood dressed up their bleak homes and lives with morning glories, the tale is as fragile as a flower; this Monday will likely be forgotten by Tuesday. However, Kovalski's muted art makes the time and place come alive, her tenement neighborhoods bustle with energy and appeal, and her characters' faces are most expressive. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
RIVKA’S FIRST THANKSGIVING by Elsa Okon Rael
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

This paean to the wisdom of children is based on Rael's (When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, 1997, etc.) own memories as a child of Jewish immigrants growing up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and will remind many readers of Barbara Cohen's Molly's Pilgrim. Like Cohen's tale, Rivka Rubin's story is set in early 20th-century New York City. In Rael's treatment, however, it is the child who understands intuitively that Thanksgiving is indeed a holiday for all Americans and thus may rightfully be embraced by recently arrived Jews, for they have much to be grateful for in having arrived in the US. It's not so easy to convince the adults around her, though, unfamiliar as they are with this American tradition. The neighborhood's revered rabbi initially decides that Thanksgiving is not a celebration for Jews, and that's enough to settle the matter for Rivka's family. Determinedly and with a show of the special brand of chutzpah given only to children, Rivka writes the rabbi a letter that begins: "My Bubbeh believes you are the wisest man in the whole world, but I cannot agree with her." The rabbi ultimately gives his blessing to Rivka's argument and is invited to sit at the head of the table at the Rubin family's first Thanksgiving celebration in America. Kovalski's (Jingle Bells, 1999, etc.) charming drawings, rendered in colored pencils and acrylics, burst with good cheer and beautifully depict the bustling streets of the Lower East Side and its close-knit families. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE SEVEN CHAIRS by Helen Lanteigne
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Ostensibly paying homage to the illustration "The Seven Chairs" from Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), Lanteigne explores the destiny of the seven chairs a man created during his life. Lanteigne's chairs act as an analogy for the man's growth and development. Cyclical in nature, the book begins and ends with two crooked three-legged stools: one made in the early years of the man's life and one created in old age, both becoming the property of a calico cat. In the ensuing years the man produces a chair with a heart carved into it to express his love, as well as a child-sized one for his daughter. The destination of his fifth chair is Paris, though Van Allsburg wasn't so specific ("The fifth one ended up in France"). There is humor to be found in the destinies of the various chairs, e.g., his masterpiece ends up as "the prop that held open the screen door of Miss Maybelle Jenkins's Beauty and Tea Parlor." Kovalski creates heavily pigmented pictures with lush images that lend an appropriate other-era, other-worldly feeling to the journeys of the chairs. A great book to inspire children to ponder the "lives" of the objects around them. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
BRENDA AND EDWARD by Maryann Kovalski
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Kovalski (Pizza for Breakfast, 1991, etc.) introduces two lovable dogs that live happily together behind a French restaurant. One day, when Edward takes off for work without his dinner, Brenda follows him and gets lost. She takes a scary ride on the subway, then finds herself in a strange neighborhood, where she is discovered and adopted. Sadly, Brenda and Edward are separated for years, but hope lives onEdward's sensitive nose leads him to his companion, and they are reunited in a tender ending. Soft, inviting illustrations brim with magnificent detail and atmosphere. Once readers give themselves over to the hybrid world in which the dogs dwellthey are clearly canine, with doggy features and abilities, but in all other ways act humanthey will relish this two-hankie telling and the tidy illustrations of love lost and found. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
DOCTOR KNICKERBOCKER AND OTHER RHYMES by David Booth
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

In an attractive counterpoint to the Opie/Sendak I Saw Esau (1992), Booth offers a broad, large-size collection of schoolyard rhymes grouped by period: ``Out Loud, Right Now!'' (contemporary); ``Mama Said It and I Say It Too'' (the largest, which by rights could include much from the first group); and ``Echoes from Long Ago.'' By their nature, these chants, taunts, and jokes have appeal; Kovalski adds to it with her detailed b&w illustrations of scamps and mischief-makers, combining bits of 19th-century woodcuts with her own lively crosshatched pen drawings and adroitly arranging several rhymes and images on each page with much of the text hand-lettered in cartoon-style balloons or incorporated into the art. Kids will love finding old favorites and picking up some new ones. Indexes by first line and by 12 ``types''—''autograph,'' ``skipping,'' ``superstitions,'' etc. (Folklore/Picture book. 8-11) Read full book review >