Books by Robert Mackenzie

ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

During World War I, the U.S. Army relied on a flock of 600 carrier pigeons to send messages back to headquarters from troops in the field, and one, Cher Ami, became famous for saving the "Lost Battalion," which had been trapped behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, this book doesn't do the stirring story justice. The text relies on far too many exclamation points ("Dear Friend, go safely. Save us!"), which makes the action seem forced and melodramatic. While MacKenzie's illustrations use color and line effectively to evoke the chaos of the battle scenes, the soldiers often look stiff. Worst yet, some of the most stirring historic details—that Cher Ami was badly injured on his Lost Battalion flight, but cared for by Army doctors and even given a prosthetic leg—are banished to the afterword. It is regrettable that these fascinating facts were not included in a work presented as a true story. Instead readers see an uninjured pigeon in a Disney-esque ending: "He had saved the soldiers! Sleep, Cher Ami, sleep!" (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK by John Cech
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2008

It's Jack again, in a somewhat lackluster retelling that includes a twist at the end. The basic story is familiar: Jack's mom throws the beans out in the yard and a beanstalk grows overnight. The giant's wife hides Jack when he arrives at the castle, and she distracts the giant from his Fee fi fo fums. Jack slips away with the goose that lays the golden eggs and returns to steal the sack that makes gold coins. Finally—here's where the story deviates—he takes both the harp that makes gorgeous music and the giant's wife, who decides to join him. She becomes his mom's best friend and they all chop down the beanstalk and feed it to the cows. The occasional rumbling from the heavens is supposedly the upset giant. The illustrations feature exaggerated forms and a green, brown and gold palette, but do not distinguish this retelling, which fails to spark a real rhythm or much energy: more ho hum than fo fum. (author's note) (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)Read full book review >