Books by Susan Gaber

WAITING OUT THE STORM by JoAnn Early Macken
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2010

A poetic portrait of a young girl and her mother coming in from the rain. While the mother collects daffodils and her daughter watches, the storm announces itself by way of wind blowing through the trees. As the first drops fall, the girl starts to ask anxious questions about the sounds she hears coming from the sky and the animals she sees running for cover. The mother patiently offers her gentle rhyming answers. Readers learn where squirrels, birds, turtles and ducks go during the storm as they follow the mother-daughter pair inside. Gaber's soft watercolor, pencil and charcoal illustrations render the storm as a peaceful, natural event, doing a wonderful job of expressing the mother's calm, protective nature to mitigate the actual drama of the storm. Dark clouds look like soft, dark pillows, gold strands of lightning glitter through the foggy mist and the painterly textures give a comforting depth to the surfaces. There is also a nice juxtaposition between the text and visuals as the characters move toward shelter. A soothing read for an angry storm. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE CONTEST BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE WIND by Heather Forest
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2008

Forest preserves the basic plot of this brief Aesopian chestnut, but recasts the language into typically buoyant, often-rhymed cadences that highlight the Wind's brutality and the Sun's gentleness. Likewise, in the sky over a fanciful landscape through which a lone man in modern dress treks, Gaber pairs off a soft but solid-looking orb sporting rainbow-colored eyes and a benevolent smile against a stormy spirit that is all fierce scowls and swirls of spattered paint. Dedicated "to Peace Makers everywhere," this fresh rendition will please young eyes and ears; consider it as an alternative to the older versions illustrated by Bernadette Watts (1992), Tomie DePaola (1995) or Bee Willey (2000). (Picture book/folktale. 6-10)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE RED HEN by Heather Forest
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Most rhyming retellings of traditional stories miss the mark and lose the original charm, but not in this case. Forest and Gaber's third collaboration bakes up a culinary concoction of cake (in place of bread) that is fresh, folksy and fun. Coincidentally, this is the second version published in 2006, the other one by Jerry Pinkney. As with all renditions, the animals vary. Gaber gives personality to the dog, a Corgi carrying a blue blanket, a black-and-white cat that plays with a string of yarn and a mouse who's always reading a book about mice in different languages. Her folk-art images cleverly use ovoid shapes as a motif throughout (portrait insets of the animals, for instance) and imaginatively depict how the hen carries out each step, e.g., she uses her beak to cut the wheat and to hold a wooden spoon to stir the batter. Forest's rhymes are a little more casual than Pinkney's. Refined or rustic? Libraries will want both. Who will help read and enjoy this story? Everyone. (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)Read full book review >
MAMA OUTSIDE, MAMA INSIDE by Dianna Hutts Aston
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

A pretty book with a pretty conceit: A young pregnant mother prepares for her baby as the bluebird outside her window builds a nest and hatches her eggs. Mama knits a sunlit yellow blanket, while Daddy paints a sky-blue room; the mother bird makes the nest with stuff gathered by the father bluebird. Eventually, the eggshells crack and the baby birds cheep; the human baby is born, shown delicately and tastefully on a blanket. The bird parents bring their babies insects and berries; Daddy helps settle a blanket near Mama as she discreetly nurses her babe. The acrylic paintings are lovely and textured, and soft touches of blue connect the bird to the room, the baby and its parents in varying spots or full- and double-page spreads. A gentle reminder of nature's parallels. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
ANGEL COMING by Heather Henson
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2005

In the lilt and cadence of Appalachia, a little girl keeps watch for the angel on horseback her mother says is coming, bringing "a tiny babe." She watches each day, while her parents wash baby clothes and take down the cherry wood cradle "made for me when I was new." Aunts come to make a quilt, and Pap plays the banjo. One morning the girl climbs high to look above the fog, and then races home to discover a lady in blue with her horse as tall as Pap and Mama with her new brother. This lovely story reflects the historical reality of 1920s Eastern Kentucky, when trained nurse-midwives of the Frontier Nursing Service made monthly visits on horseback. Gaber's pictures seem lit from within, both the glowing faces and green and blue landscape of the hills. A few historical photographs and an author's note enrich the offering. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
TEN SLEEPY SHEEP by Phyllis Root
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2004

In this snooze-time, count-down rhyme, ten lambs, each identified in Gaber's cozy, twilit scenes by a differently colored neck ribbon, gambol about farmyard and fields, nodding off one by one until the last one comes back to Mama: " ‘Mama, I can't sleep.' / ‘Hush,' says her mama. / ‘Have you tried counting sheep?' " The murmurous rhythms of Root's rhyme, the soothing serenity of Gaber's art, plus smooth verbal and visual transitions between spreads make this invitation to dreamland as hard for wakeful lambs of the two-legged variety to resist as Jane Dyer's Lullaby Moons and a Silver Spoon (2003), Ruth Louise Symes's Sheep Fairy (2003), or other bedtime reading that features the ever-popular woollies. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE VERY FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY by Rhonda Gowler Greene
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Not really a cumulative verse and not quite a circular tale the rhythm of this story brings to mind "This is the House that Jack Built." Greene and Graber collaborated earlier on The Stable Where Jesus Was Born (not reviewed), which had a similar lyrical pattern. Greene tells her tale from the very first Thanksgiving Day, through the interaction with the Indians, the settling of the village, and to the Mayflower, and across the ocean and back again to that first gathering. Though the author cites specific resources, the illustrator does not; she does, however, speak of the interesting things that she learned while researching the pictures. Authenticity concerns will cause readers to question whether nine Pilgrims (dressed in spotless clothing, white aprons, collars, and such) would have gathered around a squatting "Indian" as he planted three fish around a hill of corn. And while it is picturesque to have a young girl hand him the kernel of corn, would she have done so while holding a doll? Although well executed and in a colorful palette, these illustrations seem to miss their mark. No contemporary historic records to a rock in the harbor have been found, so one must also wonder if a verse that refers twice to the harbor being marked by a huge stone doesn't perpetuate a romantic interpretation of this event in other ways as well. There are plenty of offerings that perpetuate the myth of this day; libraries don't need another. (Poetry. 5-9)Read full book review >
WHEN WINTER COMES by Nancy van Laan
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

"Where oh where does everything go when winter comes and the cold winds blow?" A family discovers the answers as they take a walk on a day that begins with snow falling on green grass and ends with the landscape covered in white. Readers learn where leaves, flowers, caterpillars, songbirds, field mice, deer, fish, and children go during the cold months of winter. Leaves tumble down, petals wilt, caterpillars go inside their cocoons, birds fly south, field mice tunnel underground, fish swim deep, and deer wander, leaving footprints in the snow. The child goes, "In a warm, warm bed when winter comes round, listening to the wind with its gusting sound, watching the snow as it falls to the ground." On the last page we see this adorable child in bed, under a quilt, "Snuggling deep. Fast asleep." Little ones love rhyme and repetition, and by the end they will be chanting the "where oh where" question each time it appears. Van Laan dedicates this to her first grandchild, who will surely enjoy the subtle educational text. Gaber's lovely, soft, acrylic illustrations show a rosy-cheeked child in full wide-eyed wonder and successfully convey the peace and quiet of a snowy day. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS by Rafe Martin
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2000

In this sketchy but elegantly appointed version of a Russian folktale, one brother gets further with kindness than another does by being clever. As a reward for rescuing a baby bird, Ivan is taught bird language—an ability that not only repeatedly allows him to save his reckless, quick-tongued brother, Vasili, from disaster, but ultimately wins him the czar's daughter. Framed in black, with running borders of delicately drawn feathers or bird tracks, Gaber's acrylics, multilayered and thinly applied over a golden undercoat, have an appropriately rich, exotic look, and the different personalities of the brothers are clear to see. Readers may wonder why Vasili never shows a trace of ill feeling at having his fat snatched from the fire so much by Ivan, and how their father, fulfilling a prophecy, comes to be the ragged, unrecognized beggar who shows up near the end—but Ivan's dreamy gentleness sets a pleasant tone, and the tale's point is made without sermonizing. (Picture book/folktale. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE BRAVE LITTLE PARROT by Rafe Martin
ADVENTURE
Released: April 1, 1998

In the story of a god disguised as an eagle that descends to earth to aid a small parrot, Martin (The Eagle's Gift, p. 1225, etc.) offers one of the jataka tales from India, which chronicle the past lives of Buddha. When a forest fire erupts, a little parrot tries to convince the animals of the forest to help put out the fire, but she's told it's hopeless, and to save herself. Even the great eagle—a god who has watched the other gods and goddesses ridicule the parrot—can't dissuade the small bird from her noble effort. Those valiant attempts elicit compassionate tears from him: ``Tears fell from his eyes, fell in torrents, sheet after sheet, like cooling rain, upon the fire, upon the forest, upon the animals, and upon the little parrot.'' Needless to say, the tears quench the fire, restoring harmony and beauty, and all the colors of the forest, mirrored in the parrot's new feathers. Readers may recognize aspects of the story from Native American lore, but will be less familiar with the shape-shifting powers of the Buddha. Gaber's jungle landscapes begin with a peaceable kingdom atmosphere, igniting into smoke-filled, flame-licked pages whose brush strokes highlight all the drama. Close-ups of wildlife bring readers face to face with majestic tigers, eagles, elephants, and the earnest, brave-hearted parrot—she'll win hearts with her theatrical heroics. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Read full book review >
SMALL TALK by Lee Bennett Hopkins
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1995

Thirty-three little texts, none longer than 12 lines, set one to a page and graced by either a miniature painting inside a simple geometric frame or a full-bleed double-page watercolor. The poets range from Mother Goose to Richard Wilbur, and include Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and Christina Rossetti, as well as some of the luminaries in recent children's poetry: Myra Cohn Livingston, Aileen Fisher, X.J. Kennedy, Eve Merriam. Grouped roughly by season, these are predominantly nature poems, with a few about relationships, and the concluding one, Victoria Forrester's ``A Poem So Spun,'' about the uses of poetry. The pieces are thoughtfully selected and coherently organized, not for their subject matter but for their lapidary quality, the aptness of their imagery, and their economy of means. Collections shouldn't pass up this volume simply because they already own Valerie Worth's Small Poems books (FSG, 1978-1994) or an extensive range of haiku. In a field of little books of little poems, this one is outstanding. (Poetry. 5-10) Read full book review >
THE PRINCESS AND THE LORD OF NIGHT by Emma Bull
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1994

The princess has been cursed by the Lord of Night: if she's not given whatever she wants, her parents will die and their kingdom ``fall into ruin.'' Bull's tale is built on the princess's unusual response to this prescription for indulgence: she does her best not to want anything. Still, she has treasures- -a cloak of invisibility and a horse, dog, cat, and crow—that she takes along when she sets out to find ``something'' she has dreamed about. Having given them all away to those in need, she comes home to find her parents in despair: the Lord is certain she now lacks what she wants. But no: the princess's kind gifts were her own choice. The magic ring that reverses the effect of the Lord's words, thus granting her real wish—to lift the curse- -is a bit of a cop-out, but children will enjoy debating Bull's original premise. Gaber's romantic, stylishly rendered art, escaping its borders to enliven clean white margins, is also sure to appeal. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
ZEEE by Elizabeth Enright
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1993

First published in 1965, an entrancing story about a "bad fairy" who's really "bad about only one thing": people. But bumblebee-sized Zeee has ample provocation: each time she sets up her delectably described, Borrower-style housekeeping—under a dock leaf, in an old pail on the beach, or in an empty wasp's nest—people, who can't see her, blunder in and destroy her home. Her retaliation is poetically just: e.g., her friends the moles dig up the immaculate lawn of the man who thought her dock-leaf roof was a weed. In the end, a little girl named Pandora does see Zeee, suggests that her name could be Hope, and offers a home; but it's the details along the way, not the tidy conclusion, that give the story its considerable charm—nicely echoed in Gaber's bright new watercolors, where tiny Zeee is appropriately diaphanous and baleful and the landscape and other inhabitants (like a cat that wonders whether Zeee "tastes like bird") are viewed intriguingly from her perspective. An appealing new presentation. (Fiction/Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
GOOD TIMES ON GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1992

Old Washburn is a whittler and an eternal optimist. When his cow (``Blanche Wisconsin'') wanders off, he remarks that ``her milk never did make good cheese'' and fashions a drum from his milk bucket; the departure of his pig and chickens and the raccoons' depradations in his cornfield elicit equally cheerful reactions. Even when the wind blows down his cabin, Washburn sleeps happily beneath the stars and then whittles a fiddle from the pieces. The fiddle music draws his neighbors, who dance, join in on the rollicking tunes, and pitch in to rebuild his house; the animals, too, are lured back by the music. Martin's wry, nicely cadenced narration gives her tale a hearty folk-tale flavor. In her skillful watercolor art, Gaber (The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies, 1990) varies closeups that draw the reader right into the action with novel perspectives and, in the joyous dance scene, a sly reference to Matisse's compositions of circling figures. Entertaining, original, and beautifully produced. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >