Sheila McGraw

Sheila McGraw may be best known for her children’s books, including the classic Love You Forever (Munsch, Firefly, 30 million in print) but in her debut thriller/mystery, she’s out of the sandbox and into the hot tub with her very grown up novel, The Knife Thrower’s Wife.
McGraw was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and moved to Houston, Texas in 2006. At the start of her career she toiled in the sequin mines of ad agencies and fashion houses as an illustrator and copywriter. In 1986, she was approached  ...See more >


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"...this is a rollicking, colorful adventure... A vivid, twisting tale of midlife awakening."

Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-77085-965-4
Page count: 14pp

The hugging and rocking back and forth become literal thanks to pull-tabs in this 3-D rendition of the 1986 classic.

Pop-ups take the creepiness of Munsch’s paean to helicopter parenting to a whole new level, as opening gatefolds cause the crawling white (apparently single) mother’s head to rise eerily over the edge of her 2-year-old’s bed and to peer through his door in the night when he’s a teenager. Otherwise the special effects are confined to simple backing and forthing or small, often disjointed motions that add little except physical fragility to the art. The text is unchanged, as are McGraw’s illustrations—which, what with the teen’s Walkman, the touch-tone phones, and the grown-up son’s preppy pullover, have not aged well—and the plot still follows its circular course to the final scene of the young dad rocking a baby who is, to judge from the lack of any visible or narrative evidence of female agency, stolen or adopted.

Superfluous. (Pop-up picture book. 3-6, adult)

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-77085-784-1
Page count: 24pp

A white mother and young child sing a loving counting rhyme at bedtime.

The narrator mother savors the ritual she shares with her little one. The rhyme itself is a charming, escalating expression of love, and when it reaches 10, it directs the players to “go back and start at one, again.” But in the midst of blowing kisses, putting on pajamas, and all the other bedtime activities, the mother focuses on her own distress at a coming separation and how much she will miss her little one. There is no indication regarding the nature of the separation, whether it is a frequent event or the first time they will be apart. As the child snuggles down to sleep, Tugwood employs overblown syntax with expressions like “crickets sound their mating calls,” and “dreams begin to sprout, then bloom,” which are cloying and way above the understanding of the intended audience. McGraw’s softly hued, slightly fuzzy illustrations add dimension to the tale. When mother’s face is seen, she has a gentle, loving smile for her child, hiding the feelings she expresses in the verse. The little one is seen as wholly joyous and exuberant, loving every moment of the bedtime experiences. Young readers might like the counting rhyme, but they will be confused by the tone and language.

Odd and disturbing. (Picture book. 4-7)

MYSTERY & CRIME
Page count: 452pp

Sleepwalker Cassie Green, lately painting violent dreamscapes featuring her husband, becomes suspect in his death in this debut thriller/mystery.

Waking up in her suburban Houston-area bedroom, Cassie Green looks up at walls dripping with bats. She then remembers that she “hallucinated those molten bats” ever since confronting husband Austin over “screwing his bimbo coworker.”  She then flashes back to two months earlier, before she consciously knew about her husband’s affair. She began having dreams of Austin as a knife thrower, aiming to injure her, and then, eventually, of her stabbing him. She is rattled by these dreams, from which she awakens in different spots around her house, since they remind her of childhood sleepwalking episodes, one possibly connected to the killing of a neighborhood dog. Yet Cassie, depressed by her husband’s frequent absences and her jobless live-in adult twins’ sloth, is also inspired to paint her experiences, encouraged by best friend Trix, a single, glamorous downtown artist who dislikes Austin. When Austin turns up stabbed to death soon after discovery of the affair, Cassie’s dramatic paintings become a catalyst for putting her on trial for murder. By novel’s end, many pay the consequences. Houston-based McGraw, an illustrator and author of children’s picture books (Love You Forever, 2012, etc.), has written a nifty adult debut that magnificently leverages her artist’s eye. Cassie’s dreams, tableaux featuring a garden snake, clown, dead mother, and more, aren’t only striking (often literally) stand-alone scenes, but also serve as surreal blueprints into this heroine’s mind. Some parts of this novel, narrated by Cassie, run on a bit long, particularly in recounting Austin’s bad and neglectful behavior. Overall, however, this is a rollicking, colorful adventure, complete with a shocking and fitting ending.

A vivid, twisting tale of midlife awakening.

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