Books by Sharon McGinley-Nally

ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

The eighth title in the Pigs Will Be Pigs math-concept series by Axelrod and McGinley-Nally (Pigs at Odds, 2000, etc.) finds the pig family taking up square dancing and passing along lessons about spatial sense and direction. Left and right, high and low, backward, counting, sidestep, up, hop, center, back-to-back, sets, circles, pairs, and squares, of course, are mathematical terms and concepts that are cleverly woven into the story. Mr. Pig has to take over as the square-dance caller, making up his own calls as he goes along, while his family joins the dancers, pairs of animals from both farm and forest. The brightly clad dancers get tangled up from his inexperienced directions, ending up in a "pig pile" that literally brings down the house. The story serves more as an introduction to square dancing than as actual mathematical instruction, but there is an ongoing demand for elementary-grade titles that show math concepts in real life. McGinley-Nally's vibrant illustrations in ink, watercolor, and acrylics make the most of the square dancers' wildly patterned costumes and colorful cowboy boots. A list of square-dancing terms and an author's note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
PIGS AT ODDS by Amy Axelrod
ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

In this seventh picture-book title about math, Mr. and Mrs. Pig take the piglets to the county fair for a muddled introduction to probability. The author, a former elementary-school teacher, explains that she decided that "having the pigs take chances on games would be a fun way to learn about probability." Maybe, but in order to learn about probability, the author would need to spend more time explaining how probability works. She confines her explanations to one page at the end of the book, where she states: "Probability is the chance that something will happen. The probability of you getting a letter in the mail can be anywhere from 0 percent to 100 percent, depending on how many friends you have who write to you!" Actually the probability of getting a letter on any given day is more complicated and hardly random. She states a game is "fair . . . if every player has equal odds, or chances, of winning." Then she has Mr. Pig try to bounce the basketball into a hoop. He gets a basket on the first try, but misses the next eight shots. Mrs. Pig advises, "Dear, I don't think the odds are in your favor." Here it is not a question of odds, but skill. While young children may enjoy the boldly colored illustrations of nattily dressed pigs zipping between rides and games at the fair, they won't learn much about probability, despite the author's motto, "Math + Reading = Fun." (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 1998

In another entry in Axelrod's math-concepts series (Pigs in the Pantry, 1997, etc.) Mr. and Mrs. Pig and their piglets visit a miniature golf course for Mr. Pig's birthday, and get a crash course in simple geometry. The pigs, as always, are a jolly bunch, ever-ready to exploit the comic possibilities. In this story, Mr. Pig plays the fall guy: Even his new lucky shirt can't save him from putting his ball out of bounds, into the water, or beneath the bushes. Of course, the other three pigs work the greens like Sam Snead, all the while offering Mr. Pig advice, much of it laced with geometry. Some of the dialogue becomes stilted ("Dad, this one is so easy. Just gently putt to the center of any of the equal sides, and the ball will land in the cup"), but the story still prattles along in a merry vein, with its subtext of lines and curves, parallels and semi- circles. (There is a quiz at the end.) McGinley-Nally shows pigs running happily amok, flashing wit, knowledge, and the electric palette of a single-minded crusade against math anxiety. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
PIGS WILL BE PIGS by Amy Axelrod
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1994

The fridge is bare, the Pig family is hungry, and they're down to their last dollar. What to do? Search for cash—and, as would be true in many homes, they find plenty: a lucky two-dollar bill with Mr. Pig's socks, 200 pennies in the piglets' penny collection, change in pockets, a wet five-dollar bill in the laundry, and—bonanza—a twenty. Mrs. Pig adds it all up on the way to a Mexican restaurant where—eschewing the full menu given on one entire spread—they order four specials at $7.99 each (tax and tip included). How much money is left? In a way, it's too bad the answer is given (with full documentation) on the last page; kids could work it out. Still, the math exercise is made genuinely amusing by the domestic details and by McGinley-Nally's vibrant stylized art, which is not only lively and comical but also pleasingly decorative. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >
FIRST SNOW, MAGIC SNOW by John Cech
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1992

A richly illustrated and gracefully narrated version of a Russian tale, ``The Snow Maiden'': A snowbaby made by a childless woodsman comes to life and delights him and his wife all winter; then, coming too near a spring bonfire, ``Snowflake'' vanishes. Journeying to the north, the grieving couple begs Grandfather Frost to return their missing child and, moved by their love, he allows her to come back with the first snowfall. The vibrant illustrations, in shades of blue and violet with touches of gold and red, recall Russian folk art in their decorative motifs. A single panel may suggest different locations, the passage of time, or the stages of a journey; there are delicate borders—guardian angels with snowflake-framed faces in gorgeously patterned costumes, woodland details, and much more. More elaborate than Croll's The Little Snowgirl (1989), and for a slightly older audience. (Folklore/Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >
HAZEL'S CIRCLE by Sharon Phillips Denslow
ANIMALS
Released: March 31, 1992

Hazel's ``circle'' is a neighborhood journey on which, accompanied by her pet rooster, she makes deliveries and exchanges: there are eggs for artist Rae Allen, who paints Hazel's toes and gives her homemade grape juice to carry along; at Bet and Clyde's, she leaves more eggs and some juice and picks up Roger's snake—which she leaves at his house, her last stop, where she also takes a swim before heading home. The cheerful story is packed with charming details, all lovingly recorded in stylized illustrations notable for their glowing colors, lively, decorative design, and many imaginative embellishments—e.g, the rooster's checked bow tie, matching the band on Hazel's hat, and the flowers garlanding many of the scenes. Delightful. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
MY GRANDMOTHER'S JOURNEY by John Cech
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 30, 1991

Basing his narrative on the experiences of his wife's mother, who was born in Russia in 1907 and escaped westward in a harrowing journey during WW II, Cech tells a moving story as it might be told to a grandchild at bedtime. When Grandmother was a girl, a grateful gypsy cured her of terrible headaches; when she was newly married, a less friendly gypsy told her a time would come when she would ``pray to endure one more hour...when your every footstep will be pain.'' Indeed, the Revolution brings famine and death; during the war, carrying a baby whose innocence helps win them many kindnesses, she and her husband make their way to America. Much is left out, of course, but what remains is an authentic picture of tragedy endured by dint of perseverance and good will. The artist's decorative style, abundant with patterns and borders, recalls both folk art and the mannered, richly evocative paintings of Chagall. Without detracting from the story's somber dignity, the pervasive floral designs subtly lighten the mood and provide a reminder that joy may prevail—as it does here in a happy ending that goes beyond the gypsy's prophecy. A compelling, thoughtful blend of the light and the dark in human experience, skillfully shaped into a tale suitable for sharing with young children. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >