Books by Rosemary Wells

MAX & RUBY AND TWIN TROUBLE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 15, 2019

"Double trouble finds comic relief. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Max and Ruby's sibling skills are put to the test with the arrival of twins. Read full book review >
FELIX EATS UP by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 7, 2019

"Fans of these sweet guinea pigs will smile at another one of life's small victories. (Picture book. 5-8)"
As a birthday dinner at a restaurant approaches, Felix puts his trust in his best friend, Fiona, to guide him past his food neophobia. Read full book review >
SOPHIE'S HALLOWEEN DISGUISE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 28, 2018

"Sweet and toothless. (Board book. 2-4)"
It's a Halloween case of mistaken identity. Read full book review >
KIT & KABOODLE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2018

"A brief introduction to good twin kitties and a rascally mouse. (Picture book. 2-5)"
Kit and Kaboodle are the stars of Wells' newest series, kitty twins who never make any trouble—but a little mouse named Spinka creates all kinds of mischief for them. Read full book review >
FIONA'S LITTLE ACCIDENT  by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 2, 2018

"In multiple ways, this is a refreshing representation of a nearly universal experience. (Picture book. 5-8.)"
Everyone saw when Fiona had an accident. She should have gone to the bathroom sooner. Will her entire class laugh at her for the next 50 years? Read full book review >
SAY HELLO, SOPHIE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 7, 2017

"This is Wells' work at her best—insightful, witty, and beautifully drawn. Once again, she adeptly addresses a childhood concern with great respect and humor. (Picture book. 2-6)"
The delightful mouse Sophie returns, this time to overcome her salutation anxiety with Granny's clever expertise. Read full book review >
FIONA'S LITTLE LIE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

"A gently humorous take on being honest and learning to admit when you're wrong. (Picture book. 4-7)"
How can you un-tell a lie? Read full book review >
HAND IN HAND by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"Thanks to Wells' experienced hand, this book is a fine gift for new parents. (Picture book. 2-6)"
An ode to parenting, from child to mother, starring Wells' beloved bunnies. Read full book review >
MAX AND RUBY'S PRESCHOOL PRANKS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 26, 2016

"The science project adds an unusual wrinkle to this primer for incoming nursery schoolers. (Picture book. 3-5)"
Even when most of the "students" are plush, playroom preschool isn't always going to be an orderly environment. Read full book review >
TEN KISSES FOR SOPHIE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 8, 2016

"A successful counting book whose celebration of intergenerational relationships sets it apart. (Picture book. 2-5) "
It's party planning time, and Sophie happily makes chocolate kisses for the guests—but will there be enough? Once again, Granny saves the day in this heartfelt counting tale. Read full book review >
FELIX STANDS TALL by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 8, 2015

"Concise and kid-appropriate language combines with darling drawings (who can resist cute little guinea pigs?) for another feather in Wells' literary cap. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A sweet little story about the power of friendship and learning to stand up—to anyone! Read full book review >
USE YOUR WORDS, SOPHIE! by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 17, 2015

"Absolutely enchanting—a must-have for the new-sibling shelf. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Sophie, the spirited mouse toddler, is back—navigating sisterhood with mischief and delight. Read full book review >
MAX & RUBY AT THE WARTHOGS' WEDDING by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 2, 2014

"The winning illustrations and lighthearted storytelling that made Max and Ruby such a hit are on display; unfortunately, the gimmick distracts from them. (Picture book. 3-5)"
When Max accidentally loses the Warthogs' wedding ring, a treasure hunt ensues, with Ruby leading the way. Read full book review >
YOKO FINDS HER WAY by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 8, 2014

"A terrific book to share with children preparing for their first flights as well as Yoko's fans. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Yoko and her kimono-clad mother have an adventure at the airport at the beginning of their trip to Japan. Read full book review >
STELLA'S STARLINER by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 25, 2014

"Fans of Wells' work will likely embrace Stella's story, but some may wish she'd been allowed to confront her problems rather than just running away from them. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Wells' winsome animal characters are charming, as always, but her latest effort lacks coherence and depth. Read full book review >
SOPHIE'S TERRIBLE TWOS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 25, 2014

"A worthy topic and a capable concept that barely miss the mark. (Picture book. 2-6)"
It's Sophie's birthday, but nothing seems right to this headstrong 2-year-old until Granny saves the day in this rote offering from Wells. Read full book review >
IVY TAKES CARE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 26, 2013

"Disappointingly bland fare, this might please enthusiastic animal lovers or parents who prefer squeaky-clean stories but will leave most other readers wishing for more. (Historical fiction. 8-10)"
Seemingly plucked from a middle-of-last-century bookshelf, this wholesome tale of a spunky fifth-grade girl's experiences in rural Nevada has a paint-by-numbers feel that keeps it from living up to the author's illustrious reputation. Read full book review >
TIME-OUT FOR SOPHIE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 24, 2013

"Readers will clamor for more of the irrepressible Sophie, while parents will secretly smile—sheer delight. (Picture book. 2-5)"
Little Sophie gleefully makes mischief until Granny cleverly responds in this soon-to-be favorite about the joys of raising (and being) a toddler. Read full book review >
MAX AND RUBY'S TREASURE HUNT by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 30, 2012

"Perfect for one-to-one sharing or small group participation; one reading will not be enough. (Picture book. 3-5) "
Wells cultivates her taproot into the minds and actions of young kids for an exuberant return adventure for Max and Ruby. Read full book review >
FOLLOWING GRANDFATHER by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"Poignant and sweet. (Animal fantasy. 6-9)"
When her beloved grandfather dies, a grieving little mouse imagines she sees him in their favorite Boston haunts in this gentle story of intergenerational love and loss. Read full book review >
MIRACLE MELTS DOWN by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2012

"While more didactic, William Mulcahy and Darren McKee's Zach Gets Frustrated (2012) teaches children to deal with their frustrations rather than depend on others to solve difficulties for them. (Picture book. 3-6) "
Harry, star of the first Kindergators book, Hands Off, Harry (2011), relates the school day's dramas to his parents. Read full book review >
YOKO LEARNS TO READ by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 21, 2012

"A perky paean to the joys of literacy, with a bit of library love thrown in for good measure. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Wells' winsome kitten experiences a milestone sure to bring smiles to the faces of teachers and librarians everywhere. Read full book review >
LOVE WAVES by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2011

How does love keep us connected? Read full book review >
HANDS OFF, HARRY! by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2011

A reptilian kindergartner who can't keep his hands to himself is the focus of this kickoff to a new series from Wells. Read full book review >
HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, AND TOES by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 8, 2011

"Appropriately for the audience, there's no story line or dazzling special effects—just a creatively imagined encounter with a song that has universal toddler appeal. More, please! (iPad storybook app. 1-3)"
This toddler app revolves around the children's song of the same name, the first in a planned suite by the illustrator of the now-classic My Very First Mother Goose. Read full book review >
ON THE BLUE COMET by Rosemary Wells
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 28, 2010

Time travel hurts. Eleven-year-old Oscar Ogilvie, Jr., first discovers this when he—dodging bullets in an armed robbery—belly-dives into a model train layout at the First National Bank of Cairo, Ill., on Christmas Eve 1931 and, miraculously, finds himself aboard a real train headed for California with the dashing future president "Dutch." Next stop: Oscar is a strapping 21-year-old in danger of being the first fifth grader drafted into the U.S. Army! Oscar's top-notch at any age, and his close relationship with his father (a fellow model-train fanatic) is the heart of this buoyant, mostly Depression-era romp. Abundant historical and literary allusions—and a cast of real-life characters from Joan Crawford to Alfred Hitchcock—enrich the story (though they may be lost on some). Even when the novel teeters on didacticism's edge, readers will be disarmed by Oscar's compassionate nature, amused by his colorful, well-sketched friends and captivated by his "Triumphs and Disasters" (from Kipling's poem "If," affectionately referenced). Ibatouilline's full-color, atmospheric Norman Rockwell-like vignettes enhance the nostalgic feel of this warm, cleverly crafted adventure. (Historical fiction/time travel. 11 & up)Read full book review >
MAX & RUBY'S BEDTIME BOOK by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 21, 2010

This short-story collection from the steady hand of Wells displays the mischievous sweetness of the Max and Ruby stories with their candy-heart coloring, but each could have used a few more pages to bring the stories fully around. The first of the three bedtime stories delivered by Grandma finds Max getting handed, as is his destiny, the raw end of the stick from Ruby when she and her friend Louise open a café: Max gets to be the dishwasher. Max's ascent to chefdom, by associating chocolate mousse with baby shampoo, will fly over lots of little heads. In the second tale, Max, who can't swim, jumps into the lake—with safety tube, yes—to rescue a friend's doll. Fear may give sudden instincts of skill, but Max doesn't look wracked by fear, just his standard willfulness. The final story has Max refusing to get out of his airplane to go to playschool, so he just goes to school in the plane. Fun as the stories may be, they miss the inspired twists that make Max such an artful dodger. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

Mirroring the career he eventually entered, architect Fernandez builds up, like one of Havana's ornate structures, memories of childhood in his pre- and post-Castro hometown. A gifted illustrator, he drew constantly, easily rendering even minute architectural details. Before emigrating to New York City, young "Dino" and his family moved first to Madrid to assist relatives. Discovering a dictatorship that wasn't much different from the one they'd left in Cuba, the family returned home and then finally moved to the United States. Havana was never far from his mind, and art brought solace. So homesick was Dino in Manhattan that he actually "built" a cardboard replica of Havana that captured the colors and warmth he remembered. This fictionalized memoir is for the contemplative reader and anyone who has felt out of place or yearned for a beloved home; it could serve as a catalyst for creative expression. Wells has chosen anecdotes wisely, and Ferguson's illustrations are atmospheric, capturing Dino's childlike enthusiasm and longing. An author's note reveals how Wells came to know of and be inspired by Fernandez's story. (Fiction. 8-11)Read full book review >
YOKO’S SHOW-AND-TELL by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: July 27, 2010

A kimono-clad doll named Miki is sent to Yoko by her grandmother in honor of the Japanese holiday, Girls' Day. Yoko brings her new doll candy daily in anticipation of the holiday, and the excited kitten longs to share this special tradition with her classmates. Disaster strikes when Yoko brings the dainty doll to school against her mother's wishes and a schoolbus scuffle damages it. Fortunately, a timely visit to "Dr. Kiroshura's doll hospital" soon restores the beloved heirloom to its former beauty. A surprise, humorous conclusion provides a sly caveat to potential bullies. Wells's beautifully detailed illustrations are resplendent with textures and patterns. Shimmering hues of gold and a palette of luminous colors complement the enchanting drawings. Their elegance in no way compromises their warmth; a grief-stricken Yoko with her face buried in her mother's skirt says it all. The end pages contain descriptions of both Girls' Day and Boys' Day traditions. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
LINCOLN AND HIS BOYS by Rosemary Wells
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

A series of three chapter-long snapshots gives readers glimpses of Lincoln the man as seen through the eyes of his two younger sons, Willie and Tad. In the first chapter, Willie goes to Chicago with his father, who is preparing for his presidential bid. Chapter two recounts the Lincolns' arrival in Washington and the beginning of the Civil War. Tad finishes the tale by himself, covering the period between his brother's death and the end of the war, stopping short before his father's assassination. Shot through this brief narrative are the boys' mother's moodiness and their father's vaunted humor and loving warmth toward his children. The boys' perspective allows Wells to elevate her subject to heroic proportions and to give readers intimate access to his humanity at the same time, an effect reinforced by Lynch's unself-consciously sentimental paintings. Where the narrative falls short is in the characterization of the two narrators, who never quite achieve three dimensions. In a year crammed with Lincoln-themed offerings, this one stands as a solid but not necessary purchase. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
YOKO WRITES HER NAME by Rosemary Wells
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: July 29, 2008

Wells's familiar kitten Yoko is in kindergarten, and she's just learned how to write her name in Japanese. Olive and Sylvia, two catty (also kitten) schoolmates, claim that Yoko is only scribbling and that she will not be able to graduate to first grade. Despite stars from her teacher, comforting words from her mother and help from her friend Angelo, Yoko worries, particularly when she is excluded from a schoolyard game of Graduation. Then other members of the class want to learn some Japanese, and Yoko is glad to teach them. Her teacher's inclusion of Japanese as a second classroom language further helps to dispel her fears. By the time the end of the year rolls around, it is Olive and Sylvia who are worried, because they are the only ones who haven't learned their names in Japanese. Can Yoko save the day? English language learners in particular will savor Yoko's accomplishments. As always, believable characters, familiar struggles and warmth fill Wells's work, which teaches a subtle lesson on acceptance and maturity with great clarity. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
OTTO RUNS FOR PRESIDENT by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2008

A dark-horse candidate faces two big political machines in this election campaign at the all-canine Barkadelphia School. Backed by their parents, jock Charles the bulldog ("More Meat for Lunch") squares off against poodle Tiffany ("Vote Cute Vote Tif!") in a campaign that quickly turns ugly, with anonymous accusations of cheating on tests and spending class dues on hairspray flying back and forth. Meanwhile, beneath all the hoopla, Otto (a Jack Russell) quietly polls his schoolmates on what they actually want, taking notes and, with help from his friend Melanie, making yummy cookies. Unsurprisingly, Otto wins in a landslide and is last seen successfully fulfilling his voters' wishes, while his disappointed rivals are being primed for next year by their adult backers, and Melanie betrays a spendthrift liberal agenda: "Let's bake up more cookies," she proposes. "Enough for everyone!" Simplistic, but young readers will get the drift. Place this timely outing next to Mark Teague's LaRue For Mayor (2008) and Doreen Cronin's arch Duck For President (2004), illustrated by Betsy Lewin. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
MAX’S BUNNY BUSINESS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2008

Wells's Max and Ruby have been mainstays on the young-young reader/listener scene for many years now. So why hasn't Max grown up? Because he's Max, who has no growth hormones, but pure mischief coursing through his system. Here he is in fine form. Ruby and friend Louise are smitten with the newest Fire Angel Flashing Rings, but they need $2 to purchase them. They decide on a lemonade stand to earn the necessary amount. They won't, however, let Max get close; they expect, not without unwarrant, but a tad dismissively, that he'll just make a hash of everything. So Max sets up shop down the street, hawking his old Halloween candy. Grandma, tired of waiting in line for lemonade, visits Max's establishment, buys the lot and then heads into town with Max to buy him a treat. When Ruby and Louise finally get their two bucks, they find the rings have been sold—and one, of course, graces Max's hand. In a story full of sweet eats—not to mention candy-colored artwork—he supplies the palate cleanser of comeuppance. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
MOTHER GOOSE’S LITTLE TREASURES by Iona Opie
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

"When the rain raineth / And the goose winketh, / Little knows the gosling / What the goose thinketh." Naming herself (with some justice) "Mother Goose's self-appointed treasurer," Opie digs deep into the coffers for 22 lesser-known nursery rhymes—"mysterious fragments," she calls them, "long-ago laughter of little meaning and echoes of ancient spells." The illustrations pick up on this air of otherworldliness; Wells's smiling human and animal figures, all in antique dress, are a bit smaller in these settings, and look less solid than in her bigger, more intimate collaborations with Opie, My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999). The pictures may suggest scenarios for some of the more abstract lines here, but young goslings will still benefit most not by trying to make sense of the gnomic verses, but just listening to the rhythms of sound and language in them. (Poetry. 4-7)Read full book review >
RED MOON AT SHARPSBURG by Rosemary Wells
FICTION
Released: April 1, 2007

Three promises precede the birth of India Moody in 1848, and everything that follows in India's wartime experience comes from those promises—two kept, one broken. The Civil War comes to India's home in the Shenandoah Valley and, by its end, northern Virginia is a charred and desolate land, and India's life is forever changed. India is a memorable character, so well drawn she seems to leap from the pages of the period letters and diaries upon which Wells based her tale. She studies chemistry with Emory Trimble, witnesses the battle of Antietam and dreams of studying science at Oberlin College. Thorough research is neatly woven into this epic tale of war, romance, faith, science and promise without ever overwhelming the telling, and India is a feisty heroine making her way into a new world forged by the fires of war. A grand historical novel of exceptional scale and depth. (author's note) (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
THE GULPS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2007

It's unfortunate that this disappointingly didactic and extremely insensitive tale of a fat family that finds fitness on the farm is guaranteed a place in most libraries. The enormous talent of both author and illustrator just can't overcome the predictable plot or make the overt prejudice against the overweight palatable. The Gulps, a mostly obese family of anthropomorphized rabbits, never met fast food they didn't love. Only the youngest child, Dawn, enjoys healthy snacks and being active. When the family sets out one day for "Dizzyworld," their RV breaks down under their weight. They find shelter with the Spratt family (subtle it's not) and inexplicably end up spending the summer on their farm. Despite initial resistance, they eventually embrace healthy eating and regular exercise. Of course, obesity is a serious health problem, and the picture-book format may not offer opportunities to examine nuances. But it's still frustrating to compare this to the way that Wells's irrepressible Max or Brown's Arthur might have encouraged kids to be healthier. Well-intentioned but decidedly substandard. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
MAX COUNTS HIS CHICKENS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

Some rabbits are born to successfully hunt Easter candy. Some are not. Readers who have enjoyed the exploits of Wells's Ruby and Max will know who is who even before the duo set out on Easter morning to find ten hot-pink, sugar-spun chicks. As Ruby goes unerringly about tracking down the sweets, a counting book emerges. But it is the rhythm section to Max's wild solos. Ruby, the brain trust of the family, scours for gold—or hot pink—in all the classic venues. Max's search is a fine piece of mayhem as he empties out the coffee can, the toothpaste tube, the cereal box, the jug of orange juice, all on the floor and all for naught. Good thing that Max's grandma is on a first-name basis with the Easter Bunny, who delivers the goods straight to Max's basket. Wells's artwork creates a warm, comfortable atmosphere in which counting to ten is a simple pleasure, and where a Lord of Misrule can turn learning into high mischief. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
MAX’S ABC by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2006

In a lighthearted romp through the alphabet, Wells's endearing rabbit siblings Max and Ruby are back. The "A" entry begins a playful and cohesive story in which Max's "Ants<\b>" accidentally escape from their farm in search of his birthday cake. Wells continues through the alphabet, highlighting each letter in the text as the siblings use imaginative schemes to attempt to corral the critters. Each letter is featured independently and is prominently displayed in the colorful full-page illustrations. Featured letters are also bold and capitalized in the brief, hysterically funny text snippets: "Max poured his Cup <\b>of Cranberry <\b>juice onto the ants in his pants." Wells includes some fun, but not over-the-top alliteration and tongue-tickling sounds to make this text appropriate for reading aloud. Some of the text is a bit strained to fit the alphabet concept, but it's overshadowed by Max and Ruby's antics and Wells's expressive illustrations that perfectly capture their realistic sibling relationship. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
THE MIRACULOUS TALE OF THE TWO MARIES by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2006

Wells spins out an original tale loosely based on local legends from a small town in southern France. Caught by a sudden tide, two young friends, both named "Marie," ascend to heaven, where one convinces God to allow them to return to Earth for a time to care for neighbors and loved ones. Rowing upon clouds in their small boat, the two cure one sick child, help rescue another from a well, calm a team of horses and other small good deeds—all of which are actually recorded in paintings in the town's church. Bright smiles on their delicately drawn features, the two Maries float through rustic scenes of pink flamingoes and peach trees in blossom, of rainbows and fields of lavender—all of which is based on Mathers's visit to the area. Narrated in a distinct, cheery voice by one Marie, this is a much simplified version of the traditional story (for one thing, there are three Maries associated with the locale), but its sweetness will draw young readers, particularly fans of Tomie dePaola's retold saints' legends. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
CARRY ME! by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 2006

Three beautiful poems perfectly capture the essence of a curious toddler and his desire to know about the world and share it with those he loves best. Wells's toddler spells out what every child needs most—love, security, knowledge and joy. And the route to these? "Carry Me! . . . Carry me over to hear the bees. / Stuff my pocket with early peas." "Talk to Me! . . . Green apple, sour. / Red apple, sweet. / How many shoes are on my feet?" "Sing to Me! . . . If you don't recall the words, / We'll ask the hummingbirds, / They're sure to know." Wells's illustrations evoke the special bond between parent and child, found in the everyday, ordinary moments. No parent will be able to read this and feel that his/her aching left arm or scratchy voice is without purpose. Wells's latest should be required reading for all new parents—such a simple and inexpensive recipe to create a happy child. (Picture book. 0-4)Read full book review >
I LOVE YOU! A BUSHEL AND A PECK by Frank Loesser
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2004

A duckling farmer tries to let his lady love know how he feels about her as they work the farm. He calls her in the middle of the night, skywrites X's and O's, serenades her, and finally takes her on vacation as the farm animals run amok. Wells's unmistakable pudgy, open-faced characters, flirty ducklings this time, cavort, bounce, race, and promenade around a farmyard in this bucolic interpretation of Loesser's song from the Broadway show Guys & Dolls. The text, adapted from the lyrics, winds across some pages, fills frames on others, and forms the frames on still others, all the while suggesting a musical rhythm. Toddlers will get caught up in the exuberance, and parents will wonder why they never noticed the Mother Goose quality of the song as they tap their feet. Backmatter includes the actual words and music for adventuresome presenters. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
MY KINDERGARTEN by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2004

Emily the gray bunny, star of Emily's First 100 Days of School (2000), returns as the main character of this month-by-month look at the kindergarten school year. Emily and her friends have the same understanding teacher, Miss Cribbage, so this volume appears to be a prequel to the previous Emily story. In this work, each spread covers a different aspect of life at school or home, including all sorts of basic information that kindergarten children might learn, from obvious lessons on letters, numbers, science, and music to more subtle wisdom, such as thinking globally (singing a peace song) and acting locally (buying jam from a local producer). All the familiar elements of the school day and school year are included, but the unflappable Miss Cribbage wins extra points as a wise teacher for also taking her students out into the world, to clean up the beach and visit their special friends at a retirement home. Wells continues to create appealing animal characters with endearing expressions, charming clothing, and irresistible personalities. She also shows great empathy toward the emotional lives of young children and respect for the transformative power of parents, teachers, and communities. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
THE SMALL WORLD OF BINKY BRAVERMAN by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

A country boy forced to stay with smothering city relatives finds some surprising allies in this imaginative, if sketchy, reminiscence. An old man finds a bundle of clothes in his aunt's now-empty house, and recalls a summer he spent there 65 years ago. Instead of enjoying his beloved swamp, Binky finds himself with a new haircut and itchy new clothes, doing arithmetic problems at the behest of his accountant uncle, and playing cards with an enforced new "friend" who cheats. But loneliness changes to glee when he's greeted one night by the banjo player on a box of matches and other figures from labels on household products, all of whom come to life. Better yet, Binky becomes a whiz at math and rummy, thanks to his diminutive new allies. Depicting figures with typically lapidary precision, Egielski sets Binky's wide-eyed face like a huge moon over a coterie of tiny emblems, each rendered in a distinctive style and color. Wells leaves big narrative gaps that give the tale a herky-jerky pacing, but readers will get the gist, and may regard the labels around them with new eyes. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
FELIX AND THE WORRIER by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Trying to sleep, Felix is awakened night after night by the Worrier, who comes to nag him. Dancing at the end of Felix's bed, the Worrier talks of a black spot on Felix's tooth, a group of boys who tease him at school, and finally tries to ruin Felix's birthday with troublesome thoughts. Felix's mother tells him that he worries too much, but it's the birthday surprise waiting for him in the kitchen that chases the Worrier away for good. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations depict tiny Felix in his footed, red pajamas or his knit cap with the ear flaps as he twists his hands in distress. Illustrations and text are framed in muted primary colors, focusing the reader's attention on the quiet and important drama of the tale. A questionable ending suggests that only the arrival of a new puppy can comfort Felix. Not one of Wells's best, but sure to satisfy Felix fans. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Wells has illustrated excerpts from well-known songs from Oklahoma, The King and I, Carousel, and South Pacific. In the thick and vibrant colors and large, square format, readers will recognize from My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), her bunnies, guinea pigs, and bison cavort, cuddle, and dance across the pages to Hammerstein's lyrics. A songbook in a back pocket provides Rodgers's music (a single line of melody, for vocals). Usually the selection is a single verse, and works perfectly for songs like "Oh! What a Beautiful Morning," "Oklahoma," and "Shall We Dance." However, in too many others, the magic of the music is destroyed in the alteration. "I Whistle a Happy Tune" has lost an entire line, ruining its symmetry. Extremely short versions of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "Some Enchanted Evening" are confusingly abrupt. And tragically, the last segment of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" rushes to its conclusion: the magically thrice repeated "Don't you wish't you'd go on ferever" is written only once on the page. The result is a tune that simply doesn't work—how does one sing that? Supposedly, these were very deliberate design decisions, and in all other aspects, this is a lovely book—Wells's warm lines match the mood of the songs perfectly. Families who know these songs might enjoy singing with this as long as they can deal with the missing lyrics. Those unfamiliar with the songs will find the flaws jolting and unsatisfactory. The songbook in the back pocket and serious flaws make this a questionable purchase for libraries. (Nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
RUBY’S BEAUTY SHOP by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A day of beautification goes awry when Wells's (Timothy's Tales from Hilltop School, p. 890, etc.) mischievous Max joins in on the fun. Big sister Ruby and her best pal Louise spend the day playing beauty parlor with Louise's "Deluxe Beauty Kit." Naturally, Max, being the youngest, becomes their client, and soon the young rabbit is bewigged, painted, moussed, and generally dressed to the nines. When the beauticians become immersed in their role play—doing the hair of the First Lady and giving the Queen a quick manicure—Max takes the opportunity to do a bit of experimenting on his own. Soon, the once-pristine bunny is glaringly green with yellow and blue feet. Surprises are in store for everyone when Grandma calls to get done over and Max is her favored stylist. Wells has an unerring ability to hit just the right note to tickle small-fry funny bones (and grown-ups, too). Older preschoolers will delight in the fantasy play of the girls while young toddlers will relish Max's exploits and decidedly offbeat sense of style. The colorfully bordered illustrations are filled with comical details, such as Max soaking his paws in preparation for his manicure/pedicure and Max's towering blond beehive hairdo. Fans will not be disappointed since Max definitely lives up to his reputation in this farcical tale of Beauty and the Prankster. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
TIMOTHY’S TALES FROM HILLTOP SCHOOL by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2002

Timothy and his classmates are back in this follow-up to Timothy Goes to School (2001) and they are as heartwarming and true-to-life as ever. Wells has a knack for portraying every character typically found in an elementary-school classroom: the bully, the spoiled princess, the quiet one, the less-than-physically-perfect, and captures their interactions perfectly. Six short vignettes covering such familiar topics as science projects, costumes, choosing the right birthday present, schoolyard sports, and teasing are accompanied by her trademark adorable bunny, cat, and beaver children in full-color spot illustrations. Fritz tries to build a particle accelerator out of toilet-paper tubes, even though the only one that's ever been attempted cost $11 billion and still didn't work; Nora must eat a whole box of Weeds & Seeds cereal to get the prize in the box for Yoko's birthday present; Charles won't give in to Claude's bullying over who gets to be a bald eagle for Bird Day; Doris learns that health and strength are more important than being thin; Timothy and Claude have some baking mishaps during a measuring experiment; and Grace learns to be part of a team when she joins a few classmates inside the centipede costume during the Bug Week parade. Each story has a happy ending, and the trials the characters go through will be familiar to readers, letting them know that no matter what happens on the playground or in the classroom, they're not alone. Be prepared to laugh out loud. (Fiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
BUNNY PARTY by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Wells (McDuff Goes to School, below, etc.) must have a secret key not only to the heart of toddlerhood but to the very core of sibling relationships, as she proves once again in her latest Ruby and Max adventure. Older sister Ruby, with her usual imperturbable and implacable direction, has planned a birthday party for Grandma. She's invited all of her dolls and stuffed toys, as well as herself and little brother Max. Max isn't pleased, because there's no room at the table for his Jellyball Shooter Spider, his Ear-Splitter Space Cadet, or his Can't-Sit-Up Slug. So while Ruby lays out the treats, Max does subterfuge: disguising each toy and leading Ruby to believe she is having a bad counting day. Max gets all three of his toys in place just in time for Grandma's arrival, and she is of course delighted by the "three uninvited guests." The mixed-media illustrations are full of panache, from the multicolored numbers that dance above the characters' heads to the precise renderings of kid emotions on those little bunny faces. Max's simper with the Space Cadet and Ruby's discomfiture at the sitting Slug are particularly fine. A party not to be missed. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
YOKO’S PAPER CRANES by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Origami cranes take metaphoric flight from West to East in this tale of Yoko the kitten's earnest efforts to maintain a connection to her grandparents in Japan. Yoko's Obaasan (grandmother) loves the cranes that inhabit her pond in the summer, and her Ojiisan (grandfather) teaches her how to fold paper to make cranes. When Yoko, now removed to the US, needs to send her Obaasan a birthday gift in winter, she sends three origami cranes and a promise that she, too, will soon "come back to Japan, just like the cranes." Wells's (Bunny Party, above, etc.) illustrations are utterly gorgeous, incorporating gold leaf and decorated Japanese papers into her trademark paintings of cuddly animals. The scenes in Japan show a distinct Japanese influence, with gloriously foamy, sculptural waves rising out of the ocean. One inspired double-page spread depicts the mail plane winging its way from a pastel California (iconographically identified by skyscrapers, orange groves, palm trees, and a parking lot) to a deliciously snowy Japan, shown simply as a snowy mountain and curling wave towering over a small wooden house on its own island. Given the stunning illustrations, it's a shame that the story doesn't hold its own. Well-meaning and earnest, it lacks entirely the humor and warmth of its predecessor, and there is little beauty of language to compensate for the humdrum narrative. Perhaps this can be partly explained by an attempt to emulate the austere Japanese text forms as well as illustration, but even if this is the case, the text as a whole falls depressingly flat. Still, Yoko's fans will be pleased to see a new story, and may be so dazzled by the illustrations that they will not notice the weaknesses. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
MCDUFF GOES TO SCHOOL by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

A doggy celebration of bilingualism starring everybody's favorite Westie. In this fifth series outing from Wells and Jeffers (McDuff's New Friend, 1998, etc.), McDuff is intrigued by his new neighbor, Marie the Scottie, but Fred and Lucy, his owners, display a certain narrow-mindedness toward the new human arrivals: "They're speaking in a foreign language. . . . They're going to have to learn English." But when McDuff fails to jump down off the de Gaulles' couch on demand, Fred and Lucy enroll him in dog school. Celeste and Marie enroll too, and practice faithfully every day; Fred and Lucy are too busy to practice with McDuff. Soon Celeste has a bored McDuff running through the basic commands perfectly along with Marie—in French, so on the last day of class, McDuff humiliates Fred and Lucy by not responding to their English commands. Celeste puts him through his paces in French to win a red ribbon, and the two families celebrate with "a grand French picnic." Wells injects a warm humor into this brief story (Marie barks in French: "Ouf!") that, despite a real rise in the level of complexity over previous McDuff books, delivers its message directly and without preachiness. Jeffers's illustrations infuse her canine subjects with enormous personality (a wistful McDuff peers through the fence as Marie earns yet another liver truffle), and her sunny retro world retains its charm from the earlier books. An illustrated glossary of French commands, including pronunciation guides, follows the story. McDuff's fans are well served by this offering. Ouf! (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
MCDUFF SAVES THE DAY by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2001

Mischievous and much-loved McDuff, the West Highland white terrier, returns for a seventh adventure in this successful series from old pros (and Westie owners) Wells and Jeffers (McDuff Goes to School, 2001, etc.). Anyone who has ever packed up a baby and related paraphernalia for a day-long outing will smile at the piles of equipment for this Fourth of July beach picnic, including a well-stocked picnic basket, an inflatable Float-a-Boat, Slug-a-Bug insect repellent, and the delightfully named Handy Dandy Foldaway Baby Emergency Travel Kit. When aggressive ants carry away the family picnic, McDuff saves the day by befriending a lonely older man, Mr. DiMaggio, who gracefully shares his elaborate picnic with McDuff's family: parents Fred and Lucy and their unnamed baby girl. (Though children won't care, adults may wonder why this '30s-era baby girl is dressed for a family outing in overalls rather than a dress, and why her doting mother forgot the baby's bonnet.) The cozy, old-fashioned story is simple enough to be understood by younger preschoolers, with enough humor from McDuff's antics to entertain all the children in the family and their parents, too. Jeffers provides her usual polished, supportive illustrations that capture McDuff's sly attitude down to the last whisker. Readers will relish her final double-page spread of the little car chugging homeward against a midnight-blue sky filled with flamboyant fireworks. This story could serve as preparation for Fourth of July fireworks celebrations or as a summertime treat to tuck into an old-fashioned wicker picnic basket. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
FELIX FEELS BETTER by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

Toddlers and their parents love the humor of Wells's bestselling Max and Ruby board books and the bright, believable animal characters in her illustrations for Opie's quintessential Mother Goose collections (My Very First Mother Goose, 1996, etc.). Younger preschoolers who are ready to move on from Max and Mother Goose will be just the right age for this short, simple, but satisfying story about a guinea pig named Felix who ate "too many chocolate blimpies and stayed up way too late," causing the little guy to bounce on his bed with sugar-induced glee. Well, what happens when we burn the midnight oil and overindulge in unhealthy goodies? Felix doesn't feel well in the morning, and after trying all the traditional motherly remedies (chamomile tea, fresh air, and a bowl of prunes), his mama takes him to see Dr. Duck. The little guinea pig is in that afraid-to-visit-the-doctor phase, but Dr. Duck proves to be a kindly pediatrician who fixes Felix's tummy-ache with two spoons of "Happy Tummy" supplemented by a long nap and comforting tea and toast. Wells has created another charming anthropomorphic character with amusing expressions on his furry little face, perfectly capturing that horrid "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" feeling. Felix's story not only provides some subtle lessons in good health habits and coping with mild illness, but also confirms the reassuring results of a mother's tender loving care. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
WINGWALKER by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

This big-hearted, Depression-era, American fairy tale seems to come alive out of a former generation like a well-worn family yarn. Reuben's perfect childhood in Oklahoma disintegrates with the arrival of the Dust Bowl that deprives his parents of their jobs. This presents his father, a teacher of ballroom dance, with a thrilling opportunity to become a "wingwalker" with a traveling county fair, an opportunity that his wife strongly opposes. Physically small, Reuben himself has a reputation for being a bit of a sissy whose nickname is "shrimp-boats." He can barely stand to watch his father execute his ballroom steps on the plane wing, let alone think of accompanying him. But the folks of the fair take Reuben to their hearts and give him encouragement. When his father wants to take Reuben up on the wing with him, the Human Snake advises, "Hold your father's hand." This enables the boy to stand hand-in-hand in the air with his proud father. Wells's prose is spare but has both richness and freshness of simile and image, e.g., "a drilling rig pumping away like a big iron grasshopper." If some details (the purchase of a new Studebaker) strain credibility, it is true to a form in which repeated telling establishes confidence in the rightness of a story. Selznick has a lock on the iconography of history as it intersects with dreams. As if keeping a promise to the story's symbolic metaphor, his paintings are full of sky, airplanes, and upward-looking faces. Handsomely designed, the glossy stock and neat, consistent framing lend serenity and a sense of looking into stopped moments in a vintage album. A small disappointment is the final painting, to which readers will turn eagerly, and which depicts the father, not in his trademark "best black suit," but in far less dapper attire. (Fiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
A HOUSE IN THE MAIL by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2001

Andreasen (Tattered Sails, 2001, etc.) has chosen to frame this tale about a pre-Depression Kentucky family getting a new mail-order house as a scrapbook, with 11-year-old Emily's narrative running alongside arrays of drawings, advertisements, diagrams, antique-looking photos, small keepsakes, and other memorabilia, all rendered with photorealistic precision. Having spent most of her life sharing the attic with little brother Homer, Emily is understandably thrilled to sit down at the table with her parents and pick out a house from a catalogue—a house with not only a room just for her, but such modern conveniences as indoor plumbing, an electric refrigerator, and a gas range. Half the town turns out when the house arrives in prefabricated parts, and, for Emily at least, the excitement never flags through the months of hard work it takes to put it all together. Her account is more a broad outline than a tally of nitty-gritty details, but like Jane Yolen's Raising Yoder's Barn (1998), it will leave young readers seeing the walls and buildings around them with new eyes. For a sense of period, you could hardly do better than these evocative illustrations. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
MAX CLEANS UP by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

Corduroy's pocket has nothing on Max's. While sainted big sister Ruby scurries busily about restoring order to his gloriously cluttered room, Max surreptitiously rescues treasures from the trash, including the dirt from his Power City Rocker Crusher dump truck, an open tube of "Miracle Bubbles," ants escaped from the ant farm, an ancient Easter egg, and a half-melted Popsicle. Wells hasn't changed her stumpy sibs, aside from making them even bigger and more portly, but here she places them amidst low relief collages constructed from, among other media, paper, feathers, gravel, rubber ants, and large, brightly colored blobs of—something. The effect isn't entirely successful; though everything bursts from Max's bulging pocket in a grand climactic spill, it hasn't mixed or smeared together at all, making a mess that is, paradoxically, very clean-looking. Still, it's a good try, as droll as ever, and sure to draw plenty of giggles from the burgeoning Max and Ruby fan club. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
EMILY’S FIRST 100 DAYS OF SCHOOL by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2000

Wells (Yoko, 1998, etc.) makes numbers fun and relevant to daily life in this longer than usual picture book. Emily's teacher promises that her class will have a special celebration on the 100th day of school. Every day the children write a new number in their number books and Emily includes it in a story. Those one- or two-sentence stories tell about Emily's lessons in school, the antics of her friends and family, and her thoughts and feelings as she lives through these hundred days. Each of the little stories says a lot in a few words: "Eloise is thirteen years old. She thinks she knows everything." Some stories have specific references that children may not know, but Wells gives them context through the illustrations. For the number sixteen, grandpa and grandma play "Sixteen Tons" and the first line of the music and words dance above their heads. Wells's ink and watercolor drawings of effervescent little animals with human characteristics are familiar to her readers and sure to bring a smile. The variety of the page design, bold colors, movement, and humor create interest and liveliness. Some numbers have a full-page spread; others share the page. Pages may have frames or borders filled with objects related to the story; others have color extended to the corners. Every page is filled with details, but the numbers stand out, as do the many counting opportunities, making this a delightful learning opportunity. It also fulfills a need for teachers who follow the well-known mathematical pedagogy program that the celebration describes. Delicious! (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

"I was born with music that flowed through my body as naturally as blood in my veins," explains Tallchief, who, with Wells, describes her early life in lyrical and compelling prose. This brief biography follows Tallchief from her earliest dancing memories at age three until she begins formal training at seventeen. The narrative is skillfully crafted, using Tallchief's words to give voice to the whole; the authors highlight not only the early years of an artist, but the difficulty of growing up Native American in a culture that made it illegal for Tallchief to practice the language, religion, or ceremonies of her ancestors. Soft pastel illustrations in a style that recalls Degas are a luminous, often astonishing addition to this moving and joyful introductory biography; balletomanes will hope that a continuation of Tallchief's history is in the works. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
MCDUFF'S NEW FRIEND by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

Out trots McDuff (McDuff Moves In, 1997, etc.), this time to wait for Santa on Christmas Eve, in a story that subverts the cozy domesticity that has been a series hallmark in the name of a less-interesting fantasy. Fred, Lucy, and their baby are waiting with their West Highland terrier, McDuff, for the arrival of Santa Claus. A blizzard swirls outside, worrying them all. After they have all retired for the night, McDuff repeatedly hears noises, and wishes to investigate. For each foray, Fred has to dig a passageway through the snow. Trying Fred's patience, McDuff insists on yet another exploratory walk, and they find Santa all tangled up in the garage, looking for a snow shovel so he can dig his sleigh out of a snowdrift. He is untangled and taken into the kitchen, where Lucy has soup and sandwiches ready. The gifts he gives before dashing away include a kitten for McDuff. The illustrations, with their 1950s sensibility, are warm and eye-catching, right down to a molded Jell-o salad Lucy has prepared; that kind of realistic touch doesn't fit with the image of a full-blown Santa, right there in the kitchen. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
YOKO by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

The first graders in Mrs. Jenkins's room are quick to criticize the sushi, seaweed, and red bean ice cream that fill Yoko's willow-covered cooler. Even Mrs. Jenkins's brainstorm, to hold an International Food Day at Hilltop School, fails to entice anyone to try the deluxe sushi Yoko brings. It is ever-hungry Timothy who samples these Japanese treats, setting the stage for culinary experimentation. As always, Wells's unerring sense of how children think and feel shines through. The lesson might have been labored; instead, Wells offers some trusty guidance and a light touch, and leaves the conclusions to readers. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 1998

Just as James Marshall could make the oldest of the stories new again, Wells (Bunny Money, 1997, etc.) takes this well-worn nugget and makes it shine. The characters, Ragnar and his wife, Ulla, are cats who live on love and homemade bread in the fjords of Norway. After Ragnar hooks a magical fish, his first wish is for lobster, and they rain down on his boat. Ulla muses that a little larger cooking pot would be useful, and so a peddler delivers it, "already paid for," and Ulla and Ragnar throw a party for their neighbors. Ulla speculates that a larger kitchen, in a larger house, is required for the cooking pot. And so their wishes mount, until Ulla decides that she needs to become the queen of Norway, a wish the fish can't grant. The two cats pay a visit to their old neighborhood to cheer themselves, and Ulla sees her mistakes; they move back to their cottage, where the peddler delivers a kitten (also already paid for). Wells not only opens up the story to a younger audience, but imbues it with gentler, more human motives: Ulla isn't the screeching, greedy shrew of other versions, but a kind cat who succumbs to discontentment. Hubbard's lovely artwork is evocative, with rich landscapes and costumes, and full of great gestures and expressions. Come story hour, listeners will be cheering. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Read full book review >
BUNNY MONEY by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

In the siblings' latest adventure, their grandmother is having a birthday (again! see Bunny Cakes, p. 67), so Ruby takes Max shopping. A music box with skating ballerinas is Ruby's idea of the perfect present; Max favors a set of plastic vampire teeth. Ruby's $15 goes fast, and somehow, most of it is spent on Max. The music box of Ruby's dreams costs $100, so she settles for musical earrings instead. There isn't even a dollar left for the bus, so Max digs out his lucky quarter and phones Grandma, who drives them home—happily wearing her new earrings and vampire teeth. As ever, Wells's sympathies are with the underdog: Max, in one-word sentences, out-maneuvers his officious sister once again. Most six- year-olds will be able to do the mental subtraction necessary to keep track of Ruby's money, and Wells helps by illustrating the wallet and its dwindling contents at the bottom of each page where a transaction occurs. Younger children may need to follow the author's suggestion and have an adult photocopy the ``bunny money'' on the endpapers, so they can count it out. Either way, the book is a great adjunct to primary-grade math lessons. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
MCDUFF MOVES IN by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1997

A little white dog that nobody wants tumbles off the dogcatcher's truck and into the home of Lucy and Fred in a story from Wells (Bunny Cakes, p. 67, etc.) that recalls a time when compassion wasn't in such short supply. After his fall from the truck, the little white dog goes from house to house, barking at doors and garnering chilly responses from growling dogs and hissing cats. A young couple in pajamas, robes, and slippers, rousted from their beds, invite the bedraggled dog into their home to feed and bathe, and then set out for the pound. Before they've gone far, they admit to each other that they don't want to take the dog back. A late-night feast of McDuff's Melt In Your Mouth Shortbread Biscuits gives the dog his new name: McDuff. Cars, appliances, and textile prints set this several decades ago; Jeffers works in a painterly style that complements the unadorned text: ``He needed something to eat. He needed a warm place to sleep. So he went looking.'' In atmosphere and outlook, this book—the first in a series—is a kindred spirit of Marjorie Flack's Angus stories from the 1940s. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
BUNNY CAKES by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1997

The famous Max and his sister, Ruby, are the stars of this self-proclaimed brand-name production—A Max & Ruby Picture Book- -but there is no formula here—only extreme originality. To celebrate their grandmother's birthday, Max is constructing an earthworm cake while bossy Ruby declares that a real cake will be made. She begins whipping one up. Max, in the meantime, breaks the eggs, the first in a series of mishaps that lends repetition—the soul of story hours—to the plot. List from Ruby in hand, he is sent to the store each time he destroys an item, and attempts to add (in a preschooler's version of handwriting) his own sought-after ingredient, Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters. Each time, the grocer understandably cannot read Max's writing; each time Max returns home, he finds that Ruby is attempting to keep accidents to a minimum by keeping him away from her work. At one point, she posts a drawing in which Max appears inside a red circle with a line through it. Wells's ingenuity never flags, not in the brief text nor in the illustrations. Her close-ups of destroyed ingredients and her many ways of showing two children in the same setting suggest she knows her subject well. Ruby's sloping iced cake is a gem, and Max's is grandly icky and visibly worm-infested: ``Grandma was so thrilled, she didn't know which cake to eat first.'' (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
THE LANGUAGE OF DOVES by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

This story starts on a Brooklyn rooftop. Grandfather gives his granddaughter a dove, Isabella, for her birthday and tells her the story of another dove named Isabella. Grandfather was nine then, and both he and the dove were conscripted into the Italian army for the Great War. Returning to base with an important message from the front lines, Isabella was wounded by enemy fire, but struggled back to headquarters in time to save the lives of eight men. It is a story wrapped in the mists of time and memory, moody and seemingly ancient, one that Shed's soft paintings make even dreamier. Back in Queens, when the young girl releases her dove from home, it flies straight back to the grandfather's roost. Fear not, he tells his granddaughter, learn the language of the doves and Isabella will return to you. When the grandfather dies, the doves are sold off, unbeknownst to the girl. Later, her dove appears at her window sill, bearing a message in her grandfather's spidery writing. Well's tale is one of remembrance, magic, and the power of love, and its melancholy air is lightened by nice touches. The best: In his youth, the grandfather would scour the woods for parasols and morelli, then launch his dove to send word of his finds to the cook at the orphanage. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
MY VERY FIRST MOTHER GOOSE by Iona Opie
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

One glimpse of the merry Wells (The Language of Doves, p. 1159, etc.) characters that caper through these pages—a cast of hundreds—one flip through the pages where Opie (I Saw Esau, 1992, etc.) has arranged almost 70 familiar and not-so-familiar rhymes to an effect of unabashed glee, and readers will be in love again with the original Mother Goose. There's little point in pretending that even prodigious collections of nursery rhymes can do without this one—it's a must. (index) (Poetry. 2-8)Read full book review >
EDWARD IN DEEP WATER by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

One of three variations on a theme, aimed directly at impatient parents. Edward really can't swim yet and is the only guest at Georgina's pool party still wearing water wings; when she pops them and pushes him in, he needs to be rescued by the lifeguard. In pointed response to the plethora of books pushing early self-reliance, Wells (Max and Ruby's Midas, p. 642) offers this and two other small-format episodes—Edward Unready For School (ISBN 0-8037-1884-5) and Edward's Overwhelming Overnight (1883-7) - -featuring an anxious-looking bear who doesn't respond well to new challenges, and calm adults who bail him out. Edward never blooms; the message, made explicit for denser readers, stops at ``Not everyone is ready for the same things at the same time.'' It's a worthy thought, although, unlike Wells's Bunny Planet series (Voyage to the Bunny Planet, 1992, etc.), the plots are rudimentary and interchangeable. (Picture book. 2-4) Read full book review >
LASSIE COME-HOME by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Eric Knights 1940 classic started out a short story; here Wells and Jeffers (Waiting For The Evening Star, 1993) bring it back to that length, enhanced with solemn, elegant artwork. The plot is evergreen in its appeal: When Joes unemployed father reluctantly sells Lassie to the Duke of Rudling, she escapes three times and then again, even after she's been hauled from Yorkshire to Scotland. She endures dreadful abuse and privation as she travels nearly a thousand miles home. Wells tells the tale in a lean, episodic, quick-paced way, describing Joes heartbreak and Lassies physical trials in precise, effective phrases as she highlights the contrasts between rich and poor, kind and cruel. Jefferss paintings range in size from vignettes to a wordless full spread; her finely-detailed figures pose gracefully against sweeping landscapes or neat, well-kept interiors. A timeless tale, handsomely turned out and made available at last, in its essentials, to younger readers. (Picture book 7-9) Read full book review >
MAX AND RUBY'S MIDAS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1995

In a companion to Max and Ruby's First Greek Myth: Pandora's Box (1993), Wells adapts the Greek legend of King Midas to an amusing story-within-a-story. Ruby catches Max whispering ``Hello, beautiful'' to a bedtime- snack cupcake, and uses the opportunity to ``read'' him the story of Prince Midas. The prince turns everything to sweet goodies with his laser eyes but gets lonely after turning his parents and sister into desserts. He gives up his laser powers to have them back. The fun begins with the contrast between Prince Midas, who finally turns a hot fudge sundae into broccoli, and Max, who joyously greets his cupcake with a ``Good night, Beautiful!'' after Ruby's exit. The buoyant humor of Wells's illustrations (the rabbit family in a Cretan palace is very funny) fits the silliness of the book. It may not carry the serious message about greed that is the heart of the original, but it's an enjoyable spoof. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
NIGHT SOUNDS, MORNING COLORS by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Wells (Lucy Comes to Stay, p. 853, etc.) and McPhail combine on four evocations—waking, night, in the kitchen, a winter walk- -each of which is sometimes startlingly bang-on and, at other times, reaches way too far. Wells has a gentle, lilting style that can be sweet, but is prey to going sticky: A dog's belly is ``softer than sleep''; a chocolate sauce ``sounds sleepy.'' Then she will summon a winter day with real flair—donning a wool sweater, holding a sharp icicle, exploring the dark pine woods; you can feel the bite of cold. Truly extraordinary, allowing even the textual excesses a reprieve, are McPhail's paintings—moody, atmospheric concoctions with brush strokes laid on like thatchwork, lightened here and there by an acrylic flash of brightness. It is a mystery why the schlock was allowed to mingle with all the good stuff this book has to offer. (Fiction/Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
LUCY COMES TO STAY by Rosemary Wells
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 1994

Lucy, a tiny Scottish terrier, is adorable, but she has a lot to learn. Mary Elizabeth is with her at every step—curling up with the woebegone pup in her crate (Lucy isn't allowed in the child's bed); wearing old shoes after Lucy chews her new ones; bathing the pup after she tangles with a pen (``she was too blue to scold''). The outlines may be familiar, but this child and her dog are as winsomely persistent as Wells's beloved Max; readers won't be surprised when Lucy finally gets a turn in her small mistress's bed. Graham catches every bit of the story's charm and humor in freely rendered oils that echo Renoir in their deft modeling and use of light (though Mary Elizabeth has more spunk than Renoir's placid beauties). A natural for sharing aloud. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
WAITING FOR THE EVENING STAR by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

With a well-honed narrative and expansive, beautifully detailed illustrations in Jeffers's signature crosshatch and watercolor, an evocation of Vermont country life pre-WW I. Berty watches the men cut ice to ship to Boston; shares syrup on snow; helps Grandmother start seeds indoors in early spring (transplanted carrots and peas in a book listing two farm museums as resources stretches credibility, but never mind); and listens to older brother Luke's dreams of the larger world as trains steam by. It all ends with Luke's departure, in 1917, for the Navy, and Berty's new realization of inexorable change through the passage of time—and with a wish, on a star, for his brother. There's some poetic license here—hunting dandelions in the woods, red autumn foliage in early September—but, overall, the details, from milk can to parlor stove, are authentic and meticulously rendered, while the era's comfortable, provincial security is nicely conveyed. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
MAX AND RUBY'S FIRST GREEK MYTH by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

When Ruby catches Max touching her jewelry box despite her sign (``No! This means you!''), she reads him ``a story about sneaking and peeking'': Pandora (Max in ancient dress), disobeying orders, peeks into her mother's jewelry box, letting loose ``a hundred twister bees, a slew of fire ants...''; last comes not Hope but a spider, which eats the insects—to the last ``Mexican jumping weevil''—before retiring to the box. When Mother returns, she's so pleased that Pandora seems to have been good that she lets her wear her necklace (shown in Wells's engagingly comic illustrations as a string of golden bugs), while she dons her emerald spider pin. True to his usual form, Max misses the point of his sister's tale; he may know that her sign says ``No,'' but when Ruby asks who it means, he comes up with a cheerfully innocent ``You!'' A novel, entertaining introduction to the myth; better yet, another delightful episode in the saga of this irrepressible bunny. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
VOYAGE TO THE BUNNY PLANET by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

A boxed set of three miniature books add up to more than the sum of their parts. In each, a little rabbit (gray, brown, white) has a terrible day, succinctly depicted with Wells's unique brand of humor-cum-sympathy; then, in a double spread with a verse repeated in each book (``Far beyond the moon and stars,/Twenty light-years south of Mars,/Spins the gentle Bunny Planet/And the Bunny Queen is Janet''), the sufferer is whisked away to ``the day that should have been'': an idyllic fantasy in which the bunny plays happily alone, has the full attention of one loving parent, and/or gets a chance to feel competent. Especially when taken together, these little stories and their endearing illustrations are remarkably cozy and comforting. Also available individually as First Tomato, The Island Light, and Moss Pillows, in a larger size (enhancing the art), at $12.89 each. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
FRITZ AND THE MESS FAIRY by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

The strange bedfellows that occur in creative disorder are always good for a laugh; Wells makes the device even funnier here by compounding it. Fritz, a badger, stows the mess in his room under the bed and the food he doesn't like under his seat cushion; then he makes havoc of his family's belongings as he gathers supplies for his science project. Suddenly, his experiment invokes the Mess Fairy—a winged pig who emerges like a genie from his beaker and goes on to flights of messiness that appall even Fritz. Fortunately, he figures out how to reverse his inadvertent spell, then embarks on a night-long frenzy of putting everything back to rights before fixing his family a magnificent breakfast. This isn't Wells at her most imaginative, but she makes the most of a proven theme, capturing the subtleties of Fritz's reactions as well as the broader humor and offering a final comical turn that lightens its message. Fine for group sharing. (Picture book. 4-8)*justify no* Read full book review >
MAX'S DRAGON SHIRT by Rosemary Wells
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1991

Hooray! Max is back, again giving bossy older sister Ruby her comeuppance just by going his own sweet, imperturbable way. Ruby has just five dollars to buy Max a pair of much-needed pants. Max remarks quietly that he prefers a dragon shirt; Ruby points out in her usual tactless manner that Mother's directions were explicit and there won't be enough money. Then she gets involved in trying on dresses; Max doses off, wakes, wanders down to Boys' Sportswear and tries on the coveted shirt, finds himself lost, and is comforted by two policemen and some multicolored ice cream, which he gets all over the shirt...Meanwhile, Ruby finally misses him, pursues her own distraught itinerary, and arrives to find that the shirt is now Max's by default. Deliciously witty, with Wells also capturing every nuance- -and satirizing the department store and its denizens—in her delightful illustrations. Totally satisfying. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
MAX'S CHOCOLATE CHICKEN by Rosemary Wells
Released: March 1, 1989

Max is back, as irresistibly nonconformist as ever. "One morning somebody [it looks like the Easter Bunny, but, then, Max is a rabbit too. . .] put a chocolate chicken in the birdbath." Ruby, Max's sister, knows all the rules: whoever finds the most eggs gets the chocolate chicken. Max doesn't care about rules; he puts his basket in a mud puddle, finds a spoon, watches ants, makes ant-and-acorn pancakes, and finally takes the chocolate chicken away and eats it. Ruby doesn't know whether to be incensed or to negotiate. But not to worry—a chocolate turkey appears for her, and Max says, "I love you!" This delicious summing up of the contrast between two quintessentially different personalities is reflected in Wells' wonderfully expressive laces; despite the book's small size, cheerful colors and bold forms suit it for groups, while the text is also easy enough for beginning readers. Read full book review >
NOISY NORA by Rosemary Wells
Released: April 30, 1973

Compared to Jane Breskin Zalben's icky pink siblings in Cecilia's Older Brother (1973), Nora and her family are both more essentially mouselike and more recognizably human. Any child who has felt left out of the family schedule and affections can identify with Nora, skulking on the edges of Mother's skirt or Father's chair or waiting all lost and tiny on the nursery floor. All the more satisfying then when Nora reacts as her human counterparts might want to—"First she knocked the lamp down / Then she felled some chairs. / Then she took her brother's kite / And flew it down the stairs"—and the more reassuring when she is searched for in panic and welcomed back with joy after she finally runs away. Read full book review >