Books by Shelley Jackson

RIDDANCE by Shelley Jackson
Released: Oct. 16, 2018

"Postmodern gothic made tedious."
Ambitious new work from the author of Half Life (2006) and Patchwork Girl (1995). Read full book review >
MIMI’S DADA CATIFESTO by Shelley Jackson
Released: April 1, 2010

This engaging picture book delivers a pleasurable story, dazzling artwork and a fascinating introduction to Dadaism. "For a cat with the soul of an artist, only an artist will do," states Mimi the cat. She meets her match when she smells an "achingly familiar…above all…yummy" smell that leads her to a Dadaist artist (he has a fish balanced on his head) who declares, "Only art that doesn't look like art is art." Determined to woo him (successfully, in the end), Mimi performs a caterwauling "sound poem," exhibits her gallery of art (a hairball, a dead bug, etc.) in front of his house, makes poems of words ripped from his diary and yarn pulled from his unraveled sweater and ultimately balances a fish on her own head. Mixed-media art bristles with the energy and dynamic compositional flair found in Jackson's illustrations for Janice Harrington's The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County (2007), and her appropriately (but only apparently) nonsensical design will have readers flipping back and forth and turning the book around as they experience the story. Outstanding backmatter provides background on Dada. Completely spectacular. (Picture book. 7 & up)Read full book review >
Released: April 5, 2007

Never has the expression, "feathers will fly" been as aptly illustrated as in this vivacious story of an African-American farm girl who loves nothing more than chasing chickens. Every morning, the self-appointed queen tells tales to gray-haired Big Mama and heads outside to pursue her prey. The story details the joy—and strategy—of the chase in playfully poetic prose: "Then I sneaky-hide behind Big Mama's wheelbarrow and make myself small, small, small." The girl's favorite victim, the elusive Miss Hen, gets a break when her tormentor discovers she's now a nesting mother with fuzzy chicks, a heartwarming development that reforms the once-insatiable chicken-chaser . . . at least temporarily. Harrington's soothingly rhythmic first-person storytelling is just right for reading aloud. Jackson's delightful collages, patched with photos of colorful fabric and other everyday objects, capture the kinetic frenzy of chickens from a variety of unusual perspectives. Cut-out letters and spelling variations on "squawk" add occasional Vladimir Radunsky-style flair, though there's nothing cartoonish about the realistic, wonderfully expressive faces of Big Mama and her charge. Contented clucks all around. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

Sophia's master is alchemist to the King, who gives him a yearly allowance to turn lead into gold, something the little brown dog's master has yet to accomplish. When the King announces he's coming to visit, the alchemist has two weeks to produce gold. Driven by bad dreams, he sketches them in his book, hoping to transform them into a magic formula. When Sophia accidentally tracks ink across his notations, her master desperately tries to find an answer in them but to no avail. Sophia takes things into her paws and with the help of an angel and an imp, she combines things from the smells on the paper and voilà, gold! The King arrives and when the alchemist has no gold to show him, Sophia is ready to roll out her gold lump when the King finds treasure of a different sort—in the alchemist's sketches. Now dubbed painter to the King, he creates gold by mixing pigments with egg yolks for paint. Jackson's (Escape South, not reviewed, etc.) illustrations of acrylic, pen and ink, and colored pencil provide historical context for the story. The text appears on parchment images that are set against sketches and drawings, adding dimension and creating a visual multi-layered effect that is as enchanting as the story. A somewhat longer text and a slightly formal style make this perfect for reading or telling aloud, and the art will captivate its audience as well. Truly magical. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1998

In this story of deliverance from Jackson, a curmudgeonly old woman discovers her liquid neighbor has greater things on its mind than raindrops and the occasional proffered fish. The old woman in question lives in a house at the foot of a perpetually standing wave. The sun gives the wave a glorious light and swallows play in its tangled crest, but the old woman only sees a nemesis: She has built a washtub boat in case the wave falls, scolds her dog, Bones, for playing in the water, and plants umbrellas on her roof in a vain attempt to ward off the wave's droplets. A stranger makes her see the possibilities the wave offers, and the old woman sails off for uncharted waters. Artful collage paintings, with snippets of maps to conjure terrae incognitae, allow the text to achieve its oblique promise of transcendence in the sudden, severe breach of routine. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

From DeFelice (The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker, 1996, etc.), the story of a boy who dismisses his grandmother's superstitions and belief in magic as ``silly'' until he has to face his own fears in the Big Swamp. Willy spends a week testing his grandmother's superstitions: He cuts his toenails on Sunday, sings before breakfast, puts his hats on the bed, and walks around with one shoe on and one shoe off. Nothing happens. On Saturday, Willy strolls through the creepy Big Swamp- -which he's been warned not to do—and encounters the bogeyman. He runs home in terror, finding comfort in his grandmother's arms, and prepared to believe anything she says (especially her reassurance that there is no bogeyman). This may be a refreshing tale about a child's wish to test the rules of authority, or an attempt to scare readers into submission and unquestioning acceptance of adult ways and words. Jackson's illustrations show warm backgrounds and loving faces that seem cast in the light of an oil lamp. The story is well-told; the message is mixed. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
DO YOU KNOW ME by Nancy Farmer
Released: April 1, 1993

``Do You Know Me,'' Tapiwa silently projects, glaring at her snobbish classmates as she stalks out of the exclusive school where she's ostracized—though she's at the top of her class- -because her father is a lowly bank teller. The words underline the serious theme of this farcical look at a clash between cultures: middle-class Zimbabwe (where Tapiwa's family lives simply, even though her aunt's husband is ``Minister of Progress'') and the traditions of Father's brother Zeka (who moves in with them after ``bandits'' destroy his village in Mozambique). Endowed with native wit and skills appropriate to a primitive life—though less well equipped with common sense—the entrancing Uncle Zeka wins Tapiwa's cooperation in his disastrous schemes and keeps the loyal affection of her increasingly beleaguered parents through a series of outrageous, embarrassing, sometimes life-threatening mishaps. He almost drowns Tapiwa when she tries to teach him to swim; the swarming bees he's trapped threaten the neighborhood; he doesn't know how to drive, but borrows snooty Aunt Rudo's Mercedes (without permission) and wrecks it. Indeed, he doesn't fit in; and if the conclusion—he gets a job at a research center that values his knowledge of traditional medicine—is overly tidy, it's also a telling comment. Like Jerry Segal's The Place Where Nobody Stopped (1991), an exaggerated, splendidly comical tale enriched by profound undertones. Jackson makes a fine debut with lively full- page drawings reflecting both the humor and the subtler implications. Pronouncing glossary. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >