Books by Robert Rayevsky

Released: March 1, 2007

From a mote of dust to the Vietnam War Memorial, from a camel to a writer's tools (pen, paper and ink), 30 short poems by nearly as many modern poets address a wide range of everyday creatures and items. Rayevsky ably captures each entry's tone and topic by placing easily recognizable figures against broadly brushed, often semi-abstract backgrounds, and casting a muted light over each scene. As a collection, this doesn't have enough individual identity to stand out from the crowd, but with a roster of contributors that goes from Emily Dickinson and Ogden Nash to Nikki Grimes and Dennis Lee, there should be something here to appeal to readers of nearly any preference or temperament. Possibly because the poets do speak to their subjects directly, this is billed as a companion to Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices (2001), illustrated by Melissa Sweet, in which objects themselves narrate—but the connection isn't a particularly strong one. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 15, 2006

The Rayevskys take a freewheeling approach to three of spoken language's quirky little features, crowding each spread with small demonstrative figures and tucking in a pair of extraterrestrial observers disguised in baggy street dress. Each of the three sections begins with a brief definition, then offers increasing numbers of complementary pairs with hand-lettered labels or, occasionally, lists ("Argue, Fight, Squabble, Quarrel, Complain, Dispute, Bicker"). The sequencing sometimes dissolves into a visual jumble, so that on the busiest pages some pairs ("Idol" and "Idle" for instance) are so far apart they're hard to match—still, the art's messy informality has an inviting look, and the examples are a challenging mix of concrete and abstract terms. Good practice for fledgling readers. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-8)Read full book review >
PIRATE PUP by Caroline Stutson
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

These are no ordinary pirates. Though they sport eye-patches and parrots, these adventurers are canines that sail far and wide under the command of Captain Pup. On this voyage, the dachshunds, boxers and shaggy mongrels are in search of treasure, but constantly vigilant should the dreaded cats catch up. They find the island where X marks the spot and dig up unspecified booty. Before they can reach familiar shores, the cats board their ship and demand gold. A calamitous but bloodless battle with swords and muskets ensues. When the cats discover that the sought after treasure is something quite other than gold, they hightail it. The triumphant pirate pups arrive home to tearful hugs. The stanzas of this exciting epic poem are reminiscent of Edward Lear's Owl and the Pussycat: "And toasted their brave Captain Pup, Pup, Pup / And toasted their brave Captain Pup." Rich with pirate details Rayevsky's elegant artwork, on parchment-like paper, demands thorough examination. This rowdy, rousing yarn will be a real treasure for any pirate enthusiast or young adventurer. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

Derby's clever and foolish literary tale is destined to become a classic. Two lazy farmhands, Wilhelm and Janski, are convinced that the mysterious and sinister-looking peddler is carrying Farmer Kohl's stolen horse in the pack on his back. While the peddler rests beneath a tree, Janski keeps watch and Wilhelm summons the magistrate and a dozen farmers who arrive with hoes and pitchforks. They laugh at Wilhelm and Janski's foolish notion as the pack is much too small to hold a horse. Wilhelm protests that the horse is "scrunched up" and demands the peddler open his sack. But alas, all that's revealed is the peddler's wares. With red faces, Wilhelm and Janski return to their chores while the farmers buy from the peddler. After the last farmer departs, the peddler turns to his sack and opens it wide, revealing that Wilhelm and Janski were not fools at all. Rayevsky creates brilliantly designed mixed-media collages featuring floral shirts that appear on several of the characters, bold black outlines tracing the clothing of each, and quaint villages set in golden landscapes. The blend of words and illustrations make this a not-to-be-missed offering. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
UNDER NEW YORK by Linda Oatman High
Released: March 15, 2000

Children, urban or otherwise, will marvel along with High (Barn Savers, 1999, etc.) at all that is to be found beneath New York City's "offices and theaters and stores," "families and homes and schools," "garbage and car horns and billboards." It's not just rocks, pipes, and cables, but rumored alligators and real elephants (the latter on their way under the Hudson River to a circus at Madison Square Garden), restaurants and subway stations, an immense water main still under construction, tunnels carrying everything from shoppers to trains. Rayevsky (Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid, 1999, etc.) incorporates photographs and children's drawings into a series of split-page, above-and-below-ground, urban cross-sections, some generic, others featuring recognizable landmarks. Penumbral colors, further darkened by thickly brushed outlines, convey the impression that city residents seldom see the sun, but no one here seems to mind it. Though not exactly an unqualified valentine to the city that never sleeps, this does afford a playful glimpse of its complexity. (afterword, personal comments from author and illustrator) (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SQUASH IT! by Eric A. Kimmel
Released: May 15, 1997

A humorous adaptation of a Spanish story similar to Verna Aardema's retelling of The Riddle of the Drum (1978, o.p.), although Kimmel (Onions and Garlic, 1996, etc.) cites Ruth Sawyer's Picture Tales from Spain as his source. The king of Spain insists that a louse that has bitten him must be treated royally, since it now has royal blood. The indulged insect grows to an enormous size, and when it dies, the king secretly has a guitar fashioned from its carcass. He invites all and sundry to guess the marvelous substance of which his guitar is made, offering marriage to one of his daughters as the prize. A peasant ventures to Madrid to try his luck, and a flea he has befriended solves the mystery. Each of the three princesses, horrified at the prospect of having to marry the peasant, bribes him not to choose her, and he departs with immense treasure and a strong mule (more valuable than a lazy princess). The flea remains at court, working his way up the ranks until he can bite the king. Kimmel's retelling, with judiciously chosen details, is good for reading aloud to kids who relish a bit of grossness in their story- hour diet. Rayevsky's boldly outlined illustrations are as earthy as the tale. (Picture book/folklore. 6-10) Read full book review >
THE SLEEPY MEN by Margaret Wise Brown
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

Another from Brown's canon of bedtime books, full of lulling cadences and rhythms. A big sleepy man and a little sleepy man get ready to hit the hay—they yawn and stretch and crawl under their covers. After "the big sleepy man put his head on the pillow and the little sleepy man put his head on the pillow. And the big sleepy man sang a big sleepy song and the little sleepy man sang a little sleepy song," the big sleepy man tells his little cohort a story. It concerns the man on the moon—-once a little man who dashed about and dined and also went to bed—and the story sets the little sleepy man into a dreamy drift and so, to sleep. Well-paced repetitions are broken up by longer narrative sequences, lyrically served by Rayevsky's robust illustrations—acrylic paintings with the feel of colorful, detailed woodcuts. They make pleasing counterpoints to a classically framed lullaby. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
A WORD TO THE WISE by Johanna Hurwitz
Released: March 1, 1994

Following a short preface discussing their many honorable origins, a score of the best-known proverbs, illustrated in Rayevsky's usual pungently satirical style. He and Hurwitz collaborate to make some intriguing links—e.g., the ``early bird'' becomes ``a bird in the hand'' on the next spread, and there are some obvious pairings (``A watched pot...''; ``Too many cooks...'') that use the same characters to good graphic effect in rhythmic compositions. But despite the visual play and formidable energy of Rayevsky's art, he's content to depict only the literal meanings; readers are left to explore the adages' metaphorical or cautionary intent on their own. For such a handsome production, the result is oddly flat. (Folklore/Picture book. 4+) Read full book review >
Released: April 23, 1993

Paxton and Rayevsky add a fourth to their well-received Aesops with ten more tales in verse, with a good balance between the familiar (``The Wind and the Sun'') and the less so (``The Cat and the Fox''; ``The Cock and the Pearl''). Paxton's phrasing is sometimes awkwardly contrived to accommodate his meter, but, generally, his amusingly clever rhymes and neatly rounded conclusions enliven the stories and their morals. Rayevsky's fascinating gallery of characters is outstanding, silhouetted on white or against settings of deep tones, such as a rich brown, so that their luminous colors glow as if from a dark, dramatically lit stage. Human or animal, they're in three-dimensional detail with garments and lanky physiques of enormous elegance; yet they are caricatured with an incisive satirical wit perfectly in tune with the fables. A beautiful, welcome addition. (Folklore/Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
Released: April 15, 1993

The magic fife given to Petit Jean in return for a kindness stands him in good stead when a sly king sets him a difficult task with a princess as prize: he must tend the royal rabbit herd, returning nightly with the full 10,000 bunnies. The king tries to thwart Petit Jean by sending first the princess and then the queen for a rabbit (each time, Petit Jean exacts an appropriate price—seven kisses; an embarrassing headstand); but even when the king himself takes a rabbit to the cook, the fife calls it from the pot in time for the count. This is less violent than Asbjornsen and Moe's ``Herding the King's Hares''; and though Kimmel has removed his French source's earthier jokes, what's left is still far from bland. Rayevsky's elongated, amusingly grotesque figures lean and gesture in comical chagrin or, in Petit Jean's case, grand self-confidence. Entertaining tale; handsome presentation. (Folklore/Picture book. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 20, 1991

With nine more tales, the third collection of Aesop from this duo. Folksinger Paxton's retellings continue to be pungent and amusing, though he's prone to awkward phrasing in aid of his self-imposed verse forms. But Rayevsky's vigorous, satirical illustrations are still outstanding; and as a dividend—in a sly reminder that these stories are universal—he costumes his characters chronologically, from a Roman Androcles to a mischievous wolf wearing untied high-tops and listening to a boom box. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 14, 1991

A new story in a traditional mode: a blacksmith sends his three sons on an heir-deciding quest for ``something of value.'' En route, the first two scorn a trapped raven; the third, Half[wit], frees her and is rewarded with the story of a magical heart: Life has buried it, but Death would like to find it in order to create eternal winter. The raven gives Half a riddle that he shares with his brothers; finding the heart, the two quarrel, invoking Death and a cruel cold. Back at his father's forge, Half thaws the heart and even offers his own in exchange if only spring will come—thus defeating Death and winning his father's contest. The quickly moving story is different enough from its sources to hold attention, while the powerful images are well realized in Rayevsky's vigorous, finely detailed art. Death looks chillingly like one of the Apocalyptic horsemen; other figures are tellingly caricatured. Some of the symbolism seems a bit muddled (why would Spring's lifeblood be restored by fire?); still, an interesting venture from this versatile author. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >