Books by Michael O. Tunnell

Released: July 1, 2010

Who would guess that candy, handkerchiefs and one man would play a significant role in post-World War II Germany? As the subtitle indicates, Gail Halvorsen, a lieutenant in the U.S. Force, became the "Chocolate Pilot" when his face-to-face encounter with a group of starving children in Berlin led to a personal mission. Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum, which they all shared, and that was the start of Operation Little Vittles. Inspired by the children's willingness to forego Soviet-offered food in favor of freedom, Halvorsen and fellow pilots made numerous flights, dropping hanky parachutes that carried tons of candy and gum to eagerly awaiting children, who learned that the planes' "wiggling their wings" meant goodies were on their way. Illustrated with black-and-white archival photos, the six chapters convey Halvorsen's life, interjecting comments and correspondence from individual children. The abundance of war details aid in the transition from one chapter to the next but tend to overrun the telling, hampering narrative flow. Readers who stick with it, however, will gain a unusual perspective on the beginnings of the Cold War. (Nonfiction/biography. 10-13)Read full book review >
MOON WITHOUT MAGIC by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

In this sequel to Wishing Moon (2004), the lamp that was formerly Aladdin's disappears, and its well-meaning keeper, Aminah, discovers that she has become addicted to using its magic. She isn't the only one who's disturbed; it seems that the mercurial Jinni has been left behind, trapped in a mortal body with a split personality. Worse yet, Aladdin's bad-news wife Princess Badr al-Budr has resurfaced, vowing to reclaim the lamp and exact bloody revenge. Once again, Tunnell positively pours on the crises, disasters, quick journeys, showy magic, bandits, exotic locales and clever twists, but rather than recapturing that high-energy Arabian Nights feel, the plot just seems overstuffed and under-steered. Furthermore, his focus on Aminah's inner conflict as she wrestles with her dependence adds a heavily purposeful element—and since her eventual determination to swear off using magic is quickly, once the lamp is recovered, replaced by the conviction that she's wise enough to use it responsibly, the message seems muddled. A disappointing follow-up to a terrific opener, but the premise and characters are still strong enough to carry readers through, and even on to a future episode or two. (Fantasy. 11-13)Read full book review >
WISHING MOON by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: June 1, 2004

In this captivating original sequel to Aladdin, the genie gets a real workout when its lamp falls into the hands of an orphaned street child. Fourteen-year-old Aminah's bleak future takes a wild turn for the better when an old lamp sails out of the palace window and hits her on the head. But rather than use her wishes to live in splendor or to punish enemies, Aminah flummoxes the genie by searching out decent-hearted people engaged in helping the poor and endowing them with magical abilities. Predictably, the petulant, mercurial genie—who tends to show anger by spitting snakes, or blowing up its own head—steals the show, but Aminah puts in a sturdy performance too, as an idealistic but not entirely naïve do-gooder with a temper of her own, and plenty of gumption. Modern sounding dialogue—"I wish you'd settle down!"—and the genie's breezily cryptic references to pizza, New York, and other items from Aminah's future give the tale a contemporary tone without spoiling the Arabian Nights flavor. Tunnell adds suspense with a subplot involving the efforts of Aladdin's evil wife to recover the lamp, and closes with a perfectly executed twist. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
SCHOOL SPIRITS by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: Dec. 15, 1997

In 1958, Patrick is new in town, where his father is taking over the principalship of a school that looks ``like Dracula's castle.'' In the school library Patrick discovers the ghost of Barnaby (nicknamed Barney), the young son of a former principal, who mysteriously disappeared in 1920. With the help of new friend Nairen and town bully Marion, as well as some supernatural manipulation by Barnaby, Patrick finds out what happened to the ghost and settles his unquiet spirit. Barnaby's rather gruesome death and Patrick's testy relationship with his consistently obstructive father are jarringly serious elements in an otherwise lightly spooky chiller. The mystery, with a few standard red herrings and some obvious telegraphing, will appeal to fans of mild horror, and the ending hints at a sequel, if not a series. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
MAILING MAY by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Based on a true story is this old-fashioned account from Tunnell (with George W. Chilcoat, The Children of Topaz, 1996, etc.), about five-year-old May's railroad journey via parcel post across the rugged Idaho mountains to visit her grandmother. Unable to purchase a first-class train ticket, May has 53õ in stamps glued to the back of her coat and joins the packages and letters in the mail car. Even a cranky old conductor cannot deter May from making it to Grandma Mary's for lunch. A little-known detail in the history of the postal service inspired this 1914 period piece, and while children may wish for more suspense, the matter-of-fact telling is sure to bring quiet smiles as understanding dawns. Rand's illustrations of homey, wood-grained, braided-rug interiors and bundled-up wintry scenes bring warmth to the narrative; sepia-toned illustrations mimicking old photographs add to the notion of the book as part story, part historical record, while a photograph of the real Charlotte May Pierstorff appears on the jacket. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1996

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, it took more than dust storms, loss of pets, disruption of family life, and other confusion to quell the indomitable spirits of the Japanese-American third-grade students in Lillian ``Anne'' Yamauchi Hori's class when their families were interned at the camp in Topaz, Utah. Approximately one-third of a diary the class kept serves as a basis for Tunnell (Beauty and the Beastly Children, 1993, etc.) and Chilcoat's carefully constructed look at daily life in the camp. The children's innocent comments give way to surprising stories: ``We should not kill spiders because Uncle Sam needs them for the war'' shows the children's patriotism and their knowledge of the use of webbing in bombsights; the calm, deliberately cloaked observation that an elderly man ``passed away'' doesn't include that he was shot, probably in cold blood, by a guard. In their efforts to explain the racial hysteria rampant at the time, the authors occasionally gloss over details that young readers need: e.g., at the relocation of successful Japanese-American farmers, competing farmers are typified simply as ``jealous'' and ``selfish.'' For the most part, Tunnell and Chilcoat provide a valuable, incisive, comprehensive text. (b&w photos, index, unseen, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Despite its perky informality (``Most folks know the story...about Beauty taking old bristle-face in her arms...just in time to keep Mr. Beast from croaking''), a didactic and disappointing sequel. ``Auguste,'' the handsome ex-beast, is vain and thoughtless; worse, he spends too much time with cronies and too little at his kingly (and, presently, parental) duties. He's not even there for the birth of his children—three boys, each with a beastly characteristic: fangs, paws, a tail. ``It's not my fault!'' is his predictable reaction, and he absents himself while the children run out of control—until suddenly he sees their behavior as dangerous and lays down the law with instant results. Sure, dads are important, but Beauty's total inability to cope is hard to take—even given that her sons are suffering from an enchantment as well as from a shiftless father. Tunnell (Chinook!, p. 235) can do better. Cymerman's cartoony illustrations are in the parodic spirit of the text. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
THE JOKE'S ON GEORGE by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

...Washington, that is, in a delightful vignette narrated by Rembrandt Peale—in whose father's remarkable museum the incident took place and on whose memoirs this account is based. Neatly setting the scene for the president's visit to view some wax figures, Peale notes Washington's punctilious courtesy in bowing ``to common servants and fine gentlemen alike'' and describes Charles Willson Peale's museum, unique—especially in its time— as a mix of natural history exhibits and artifacts, particularly Peale's own paintings. In the context, readers won't be as startled as George is when two young Peales fail to return his greeting, but there's another surprise in store: the boys aren't waxworks but a trompe l'oeil painting so lifelike that it even fools the dogs. New Yorker artist Osborn makes a fine picture- book debut here. Her stylized art has a naive flavor, appropriately echoing Peale's paintings; its strong designs, crisp images, and decorative colors are spiced with a sly wit that wonderfully complements Tunnell's nicely understated text. A handsome, entertaining glimpse of times past. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
CHINOOK! by Michael O. Tunnell
Released: March 24, 1993

A children's literature professor, reared in Alberta, makes a fine picture-book debut with some nicely understated tall tales about the warm, dry wind that sweeps down from the Rockies' eastern slopes. The stories are told by old Andrew Delaney McFadden, who's out ice-fishing when he hustles two skating children into his rowboat and gives them gives an urgent warning: back in 1888, when ``it was as cold as a snake's kiss,'' a chinook not only melted the ice faster than horses could gallop but left him floundering in dangerously hot water (hence the boat). Old Andy regales the kids with several more delightfully exaggerated ``experiences'' before sending them on their way with the admission that he may worry too much—``If a [chinook] comes, I'll row like the dickens and pick you out of the water.'' Root's sweeping brush strokes, affectionate caricatures, and sly humor are right in the spirit of the entertaining story. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >