Books by Susan Estelle Kwas

WAKE THE DEAD by Monica A. Harris
Released: Aug. 15, 2004

Readers unable to absorb pun-ishment, beware! Rambunctious young Henry ignores warnings that his noise will wake the dead—until it does just that. Rising from the local cemetery, a band of irritated corpses goes in search of the racket's source. Is it the library? No, only dead silence there. The Mayor's office? Nothing there but skeletons in the closet. The Dead Letter Office? Nope. Relentlessly giving every conceivable expression involving death a literal turn, Harris sends the searchers—portrayed in Kwas's cartoon illustrations as shrouded but unfrightening figures with peanut-shaped heads—from swimming pool ("A boneheaded idea, since they were dead in the water") to the park where they're set to "work their fingers to the bone pushing up daisies." At last they catch up with Henry, who tries to put them back down with games ("Kick the Bucket"), races (ending in a dead heat), and dance music ("Staying Alive")—but in the end, it's a good, old-fashioned bedtime story (Goodnight Goon) that does the trick. A dead cinch for storytime. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
WILD BIRDS by Joanne Ryder
Released: March 1, 2003

Ryder (Mouse Tail Moon, 2002, etc.) follows a fledgling birder as she watches and cares for birds in the wild. Ambience rather than identification is her goal, so she endeavors to catch a little bit of each bird's personality: starlings creeping about in the grass, finches fluttering as they take a bath, sparrows mobbing power lines like so many bleacher bums. An effort is made to convey some ornithological information in passing—what foods certain birds eat, which birds migrate south, which will stay for the winter—and Kwas's (A Rumpus of Rhymes, 2001, etc.) color-shot art is particularly deliberate when it comes to the birds themselves, though more stylistic when it comes to the people and architecture. The staccato prose works well enough when speaking of the birds—"Ever-so-hungry birds watch your shadow slowly stretching on the ground. They see you fill the feeder with sweet seeds, then move away"—but the same cannot be said when it tries to catch the wonder of flight, when it gets all too whiffy and fails to hold: "They flicker here and there between leaf and leaf, between earth and sky. Wild birds take the high path over your head under the clouds." Still, there is enough sustaining natural imagery here to launch more than a few young birders. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

The introductory poem in Katz's (We the People, 2000, etc.) new collection asks the reader to imagine the library late at night. What if the words in books get bored just sitting there quietly on the pages? Instead, "they burst out of the books in a rackety riot!" Chomp on crudités with a "chinkety-chonkety," or listen to Willis Walker "jibber-jab-jibber." Sympathize with Noah's wife's complaints about the animals on the ark that snort and bellow and shriek. From the "snip-snip" at the barbershop, to the "swooooosh" of the wind, to the "munchy crunchy" of breakfast toast, to the "bash, crash, blunder" of thunder, these poems yell, shout, pop, and clank. A few are only slightly quieter. They merely pitter-pat and buzz. Playful manipulation of typeface and font guides the reader in giving voice to these sounds. Kwas's (The Story of St. Valentine's Day, 1999) lively, brightly colored illustrations perfectly match the content as they move and flow around and through the poems. This collection of poems tickles the eye and the ear. Onomatopoeia has never been this much fun. (Poetry. 7-10)Read full book review >