Books by Stephen Lambert

SHAKESPEARE’S TALES by Beverley Birch
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 15, 2002

Four plays—Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, Othello, and The Tempest—are retold in pedestrian fashion with minimally appealing illustrations. The audience for these types of retellings is always questionable, but this particular collection has more trouble than most in finding one at all. There are many exclamation points and rhetorical questions, and though all of the dialogue is derived from the originals, it is often rewritten. In one particularly meretricious instance, the line from The Tempest, "we are such stuff as dreams are made on," is misquoted as "we are such stuff as dreams are made of." In every instance, characterization is reduced to flatness: Ophelia is a weak flower; Othello is jealous; Cleopatra is devious. There's neither depth nor room for the lovely intricacies of Shakespeare's people. The choice of plays is aimed at a somewhat older audience, but the inclusion of pictures seems to pitch it at a younger one. When you come right down to it, a 12-year-old is probably ready to see the plays, but this won't work for them either: leaving out so much, it fails as a précis; and flattening the action and characters so, it fails as a study guide. With several better retellings available, this volume is unnecessary. (Nonfiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
MY GRANDMOTHER’S CLOCK by Geraldine McCaughrean
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 23, 2002

Compulsive clock-watchers may come away from this poetic disquisition with some truer ways of telling time. When a child suggests that the grandfather clock in her grandmother's house needs fixing, Grandma explains that she has many other ways of measuring time: heartbeats, pages of a book, bathwater going cold, shadows under a tree. She tells days of the week by the smell of bread baking, the clatter of garbagemen, and other cues: longer intervals by the moon and tides, flowers and temperatures, "comets in their ellipses, the sun and moon's eclipses," and even the stars, which also teach that "time's just too big to fit inside any watch or clock." Lambert (Nobody Rides the Unicorn, 2000, etc.) uses muted, clear colors and softly rounded forms to give his scenes of child and grandparents rambling down country roads or along the shore, planting the garden, making snowballs, or just sitting together, a peaceful, idyllic air. An eloquent, compelling invitation to children to think deep thoughts and not to take the over-scheduled life for granted. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
NOBODY RIDES THE UNICORN by Adrian Mitchell
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2000

This modern fairy tale tells the story of a fearful and paranoid king who summons the gentlest girl in the kingdom to trap a unicorn in order to kill it for his own selfish purposes. The king of Joppardy, convinced that his enemies are out to poison him, follows the advice of his councilor Doctor Slythe, who tells the king that there is only one solution—the king must drink from a goblet and eat with utensils made from a unicorn's horn. The nefarious Slythe, dressed all in black and looking thoroughly evil, also advises the king that there is only one way to catch the elusive unicorn—a quiet young girl with a gentle voice must call to it. Zoe, the quietest girl in the land, and an orphan who is considered a nobody, is sent for and unsuspectingly invites the unicorn into the open. All of a sudden, hunters and hunting dogs intrude upon the idyllic scene and capture the beautiful beast. Zoe, furious that she's been deceived and determined to make it right, sneaks into the palace gardens and frees the animal. Incensed that the little girl has bested him, the king banishes her. But Zoe finds her way into the secret valley of the unicorns: a magical and welcoming land that certainly will be more of a home to her than Joppardy ever was. Beautiful, soft illustrations mostly in earth colors, but interjected with jewel tones and interesting design make this a visually compelling book. Details in the illustrations—an animal hidden in the bush, topiaries in the shape of whales—encourage the reader to look again and again at the enticing pictures. One jarring, anachronistic note, though—on the opening page, the illustration shows a car on the road to the medieval-looking palace, marring the timeless, otherworldly feel of the book. And the name of the kingdom ineluctably makes one think of the popular game show. Despite these minor quibbles, this will certainly please the unicorn crowd and will be a popular read-aloud. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BEDTIME! by Joan W. Blos
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: May 1, 1998

The setting of this bedtime tale is a clutter-free child's bedroom, where a boy refuses to go to bed but soon admits to his grandmother that one of his three stuffed toys might be sleepy. The narrator asks, ``So do you know what that grandma did? She took that sleepy bear and she put him into the bed.'' One by one the boy releases the toys to the grandmother's custody, until they are all in bed without him. She begins reading a story ``with no one sitting on her lap.'' Savvy children will predict this outcome: The boy finally retires and falls asleep. Everything in the room is soft-edged, portrayed in blocky shapes and lulling tones of blue and green, except for an alarm clock, whose details of numbers and hands are clear. The pictures are soothing but repetitious; only the conspiratorial tone between the narrator and readers distinguishes this entry from much of the bedtime-story canon. (Picture book. 1-3) Read full book review >
WHEN I WAS LITTLE LIKE YOU by Jill Paton Walsh
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

While on a seaside stroll with her grandmother, Rosie learns how things in her present-day environment compare with the olden days of Gran's time. Beginning each passage with the refrain, ``When I was little like you,'' Gran describes steam engines that ``puffed round the point'' and the ice cream that was peddled by a man on a bicycle. Fish was sold right from the dock while swimmers played catch-as-catch-can with the breakers. The simple then-and-now contrasts are ideal for sharing, inviting young listeners to ask questions of their own elders. One constant is the old lighthouse, which looks just the same on fine summer evenings past and present. Walsh provides a finale as sweet as the old-fashioned four-for-a-penny candy in glass jars, when Rosie asks Gran if she liked the world better back then. Gran replies, ``The world is more fun by far now it has you in it!'' Fuzzy-edged blocks of color form the shapes of uncluttered seascapes and cherubic, rosy-cheeked characters. Puffs of cottony clouds and ice cream, rounded hills, and gently pitched hat brims add to the amiable, pastoral feel of this saunter through summer memories. (Picture book. 2-4) Read full book review >
CONNIE CAME TO PLAY by Jill Paton Walsh
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1996

Connie came to play and Robert doesn't want to share his toys. ``This is my train!'' he tells her. ``All right,'' says Connie. ``You play with that one. I'll play with this one.'' A spread follows of Connie driving a big locomotive. The same scene is played out with all of Robert's other toys; Connie continues to imagine herself using the real thing and some kind of balance is struck. In the end, Connie wins Robert over when she offers to share her fantasies, by telling him stories. The scumbled pictures have an unimposing expressiveness, alternating between spreads of Robert and Connie against a white background and big, colorful landscapes against which Connie's imaginative exercises unfold. From the author of Pepi and the Secret (p. 560), it's grand to see such a typical preschool scenario handled without preachiness. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
THE TRAIN RIDE by June Crebbin
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1995

A contemporary looking little girl and her mother climb aboard what looks like a blocky toy train pulled by a steam engine. They pass through landscapes dotted with fluffy animals and an old- fashioned red tractor. Other passengers are glimpsed in the windows of the train, but except for the beaming ticket collector, no one else enters the story until the train arrives at the station, where the girl sees her grandmother welcoming her. Crebbin's prose mimics the building and then waning motion of the train, right to the last ``Welcoming/me.'' The chunky shapes of the impressionistic countryside appear in bright chalk pastels; these and the warmly effective finale do hold appeal, but this is a fairly mild trip. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
FLY BY NIGHT by June Crebbin
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1993

Little Blink sleeps by day, then waits at night for Mother Owl to come home. But on this day, at dawn, he begins asking her, ``Now? Is it time?'' The quiet, cadenced text describes what goes on nearby—beetles scuttling, a squirrel jumping past—as Blink impatiently waits and his mother repeats, ``Soon. Go back to sleep.'' At last, dusk deepens, the night breeze stirs with ``puff and nonsense,'' and it's time for his first flight. Young children will enjoy the reversal of night and day for a creature whose eagerness to wake and rise so resembles theirs; Lambert's gentle, soft-edged forms, restful designs, and appealing little owl are just the right complement for a book whose peaceful tone makes it, ironically, a perfect bedtime story. (Picture book. 3- 6) Read full book review >
THE SNOWMAIDEN by James Riordan
adapted by James Riordan, illustrated by Stephen Lambert
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 15, 1992

In this traditional Russian tale, Snowmaiden is the daughter of Spring and Frost, who agree to put her in the care of a peasant couple. Longing to experience love, she begs Spring for the crown of lilies that will allow her to understand it; but when Snowmaiden's lover pleads that ``we cannot hide our love forever from the light of day,'' she lingers too long: The sun's morning rays melt her, as Frost had feared. Yet flowers grow in her place, and the last line suggests that she will return with the snow. Riordan's retelling is lyrical and dignified if a little stiff. Lambert depicts mannered, elongated figures in dark, generalized settings; the effect is decorative and appropriate to the story's tone, but distances the reader. For large folklore collections. (Folklore/Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >