Books by Nicholas Heller

ELWOOD AND THE WITCH by Nicholas Heller
Released: Sept. 30, 2000

Elwood the pig's chance encounter with a witch's broom sets magic in motion. Shuffling through the woods one moonlit evening, he comes across a broomstick. "This will do nicely to keep my front step swept," he figures. But when he grabs the broomstick and it begins to shimmy and shake and drag him across the mossy ground, he gets an intimation that all is not what it seems. When it flies off into the night sky with Elwood aboard, and a witch comes crashing out of the underbrush—"She had been in the woods collecting bitter roots and poisonous toadstools when she saw Elwood go sailing past"—he knows just what he has gotten himself into. The witch demands the broom's return; Elwood would be only too happy but he can't—"I don't know how!" The witch isn't listening. She threatens and then hurls a spell at Elwood. It misses, hits an unsuspecting bat, which is turned into a trout. Then a cloud is transformed into a giant toad when the spell skirts past Elwood. All the while Elwood is shouting that he can't control the broomstick, but the witch, raving with imprecations, is deaf to Elwood's pleas. Only when she turns the Moon into a great bumblebee with another wayward spell, and the bee says she'll give the witch a good stinging unless she is turned back into the moon, does the witch pipe down. She directs Elwood to earth, and considers turning him into a worm, but the Moon is now guarding Elwood, who continues on his night stroll. A pleasing enough tale, simply written with sly, subtle humor, though mostly a platform for the illustrations, which are grand spreads of emotion and activity and deep color. Capturing the bright clueless look in Elwood's eyes and a touch of the sinister in the witch's raging expression, Smith creates exactly the right amount of hysteria to put the story over the top. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE GIANT by Nicholas Heller
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

The giant in the painting in Mrs. Bell's living room is so realistic he looks ``quite ready to jump off the canvas onto Mrs. Bell's carpet.'' And that's exactly what he does. It seems the artist has a way of dreaming up strange creatures, and the only way to get rid of them is to paint them into canvases; however, when he takes artistic license (e.g., making the giant's plain brown overalls purple striped), his creations have a way out. In this case, Mrs. Bell finds the giant in the artist's barn, filling it from floor to rafters, its enormous eye peering out the hayloft window. As the artist paints him onto the canvas again, the real giant fades and dissolves. It's Mrs. Bell's grandson, Evan, who figures out the role of the artist's fanciful additions and receives a gift of a painting for his trouble. Smith's realistic watercolors provide the perfect rendering of Heller's humorous tale. The giant, sweet-faced and benign, but very large, looks suitably ready to burst off the page. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
THIS LITTLE PIGGY by Nicholas Heller
Released: April 1, 1997

The well-worn, much-loved finger-and-toe game is elucidated and embellished to a fare-thee-well in this little picture book. It's not clear why readers need to know that the second little piggy was just waiting for his brother to leave so he could skip going to market and laze in a bubble bath; or that the third little piggy ate all the roast beef slated for dinner, much to the chagrin of the fourth little piggy. Children may be beguiled, however, by the adorable illustrations in bright candy colors, by the portrait of a perky, bespectacled grandmother who tells the tale to her grandson, and by the vivid hues of the piggies' world. While the game may be more enjoyable to play than to read about, this book may inspire children to tinker with and expand upon such rhymes on their own. (Picture book. 2-4) Read full book review >
GOBLINS IN GREEN by Nicholas Heller
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

From A to Z, the surprises never let up, and neither do the brightly festooned goblins who cavort through the attic of a spying boy and girl, donning a wacky assortment of human costumes in a mirror image of kids on Halloween. Heller (A Book for Woody, p. 384, etc.) creates an intricate challenge for himself: Each letter matches a goblin's name and a modifier, while the costume name starts with the following letter''Xerxes looks eXemplary in an eXtraordinary yoke.'' This results in inventive and vocabulary- building combinations (a red sarong, sorrel trousers, a zebra anorak). Smith also sprinkles in visual puns, hidden art masterpieces, and other delights that will make readers flip back and forth through the pages. The goblins are funny and childlike; if all of their ilk had this much personality, their appearance each year wouldn't be limited to the weeks leading up to Halloween. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
A BOOK FOR WOODY by Nicholas Heller
Released: March 1, 1995

Woody, a young pig in need of reading material for the trip home from his grandparents', sits down in front of a shelf with six books. Each book jumps out to convince him that it is ``the only one worth reading.'' Each one has a different content to offer: a moralistic tale, an adventure story, a funny book, a math book, a realist novel. The last book, entitled ``A Book for Woody,'' turns out to be the very book readers are holding. In this follow-up to Woody (1993), Heller's pictures of Woody and the talking books (black pen outlines, filed in with bright watercolors) are colorful, if somewhat stiff. But by— successfully— making the story so self-referential and the action so abstract Heller puts his book in a genre of storytelling that is a little unconventional and self-conscious, and a lot avante-garde. (Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
UP THE WALL by Nicholas Heller
Released: May 26, 1992

Everywhere the small narrator goes, someone in his family is busy and asking him to be quiet. Resourcefully, he packs a big green sack with food and toys and, with his dog, walks up the wall to the ceiling, which provides ample uncluttered space for skateboarding, bowling, or spreading out belongings. Heller visualizes this pleasing fantasy in vibrant, sophisticated colors and perspectives so precise that the pictures can be read either right-side up—so that everyday life and objects hang from a floor that's now overhead—or upside-down, with boy and dog defying gravity. A novel notion, elaborated with imagination and style. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE TOOTH TREE by Nicholas Heller
Released: Sept. 16, 1991

Claiming that there's no tooth fairy, Charlie buries a tooth out in the yard, where it grows into a tree whose ferocious branches invade his room to munch on his belongings. Just in time, the tooth fairy arrives—a sensible sprite in a checked shirt who vanquishes the monster and (he discovers next morning) leaves a quarter in place of the tooth. Astute readers may conclude from clues in Heller's expressive, sophisticated illustrations that the adventure was a dream; either way, an entertaining story reflecting a genuinely childlike imagination. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >