Books by Susan Jeffers

JINGLE BELLS by Susan Jeffers
Released: Sept. 19, 2017

"A perfect choice for reading or singing on wintry nights. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Jeffers continues her series of interpretations of traditional holiday stories and songs (The Twelve Days of Christmas, 2013, etc.) with this large-format version of the beloved holiday song. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2013

"A whimsical, magical interpretation of a holiday classic, improved by the additional storyline and the charming narrator. (artist's note) (Picture book. 3-7)"
Jeffers has created a lovely story incorporating the words of the old folk song with one important change: a clever substitution of Santa as the giver of all the gifts instead of the narrator's "true love." Read full book review >
Released: June 17, 2008

Young Julia, a horse-mad little girl, wants a pony of her own. She saves her pennies and attends the Chincoteague pony auction, but she doesn't have quite enough. Others in the gathered crowd, seeing her distress, hand her bills, and, when a foal is unexpectedly returned, she makes the winning bid. Some background on the legend of the ponies' Spanish origins and on the details of Chincoteague's annual Pony Penning Day helps to fill out this slight tale. Inspired by the author's childhood fondness for Marguerite Henry's classic works and an actual Chincoteague pony auction event, this rather bland tale plays up the romantic notion of horse ownership without much consideration for the realities. Moreover, the ink-and-watercolor illustrations pale in comparison to the playful liveliness of Wesley Dennis's, invoked in the introduction. Stiff compositions, often awkward poses and corny expressions on little Julia's face combine to make this a visually tepid experience. The large trim and appealing pony on the cover will make kids reach for it, but the contents don't live up to the packaging. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE NUTCRACKER by Susan Jeffers
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

Jeffers puts her immediately recognizable style to fine use in her illustrations of the story from the beloved holiday ballet. The oversized cover of this beautifully designed edition is filled with a compelling, close-up portrait of Marie as she holds her Nutcracker close, with the title in metallic gold letters partially covered by Marie's flowing golden tresses. The illustrations closely follow the plot of the ballet, with the familiar progression of the party scene full of swirling skirts and the appearance of the Nutcracker, the battle scene with the defeat of the Mouse King and the journey to the magical Land of Sweets, filled with scenes of dancers in minty pastels and jeweled accents. An author's note offers information about the history of the ballet and the approach Jeffers followed in designing this lovely interpretation. The story is skillfully retold with just a few lines of text per page, making this an excellent introduction to the ballet for younger children. This will likely be the new standard choice for reading to little ones prior to attending a holiday performance. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2004

This charming tale is based on an incident that happened to the young John Paterson during the summer of 1942, when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, her daughter, and two granddaughters spent the summer near Lee, Massachusetts. Young William, frustrated that he's "too young to do anything to help win the war," imagines himself as a knight fighting dragons. He longs to see the queen, and visualizes her in a crown and red ermine-trimmed robes. William decides that the delicious blueberries he picks on the family farm might comfort her. Escaping his jeering older brother, he delivers the berries, and even manages to see the queen, who is "disguised like a grandma, but anyone would know she was a real queen." The gouache paintings with ink cross-hatching recall old-fashioned color-separated illustrations. They beautifully juxtapose the magnificent horses, fire-breathing dragon, and royal robes of William's fairytale world with realistic images of cars, planes, and war work—images that will appeal to young readers. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
K IS FOR KITTEN by Niki Clark Leopold
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A tiny ginger kitten is rescued from the alley in this alphabetic adventure. From A to Z, Leopold (Once I Was . . . , 1999) chronicles a young girl's first day with her foundling. Christening the kitty Miss Rosie, she welcomes the feline to her home, introducing it to the inhabitants and surrounding environs. In typical kittenish fashion, Rosie's curiosity is greater than her common sense as she recklessly teases the resident dog, frolics after squirrels, tussles with a frog, and generally tumbles from one misadventure to another. A dunk in the pond, a quarrel with a neighborhood cat, getting stuck up a tree, all wear out the petite, furry whirlwind, who ultimately settles down with a contented string of Zs at tale's end. Rhythmic verses are arranged with a stanza of rhymes dedicated to each letter. The playful stanzas successfully convey both the naïveté and rampant curiosity that is so potently kitten. "S is for Shadow. / Wherever she goes, / A little gray kitten / Plays with her toes." Jeffers's (McDuff Saves the Day, p. 743, etc.) delicately detailed gouache and colored-ink illustrations beguile readers with the full force of Miss Rosie's considerable charm. Wide, green eyes peer out of the pages with incredulity, and with wee ears eagerly pointed forward and sassy tail perkily aloft, the cuddlesome kitten leaps paws first into each mishap. A frisky feline frolic through the alphabet. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

A doggy celebration of bilingualism starring everybody's favorite Westie. In this fifth series outing from Wells and Jeffers (McDuff's New Friend, 1998, etc.), McDuff is intrigued by his new neighbor, Marie the Scottie, but Fred and Lucy, his owners, display a certain narrow-mindedness toward the new human arrivals: "They're speaking in a foreign language. . . . They're going to have to learn English." But when McDuff fails to jump down off the de Gaulles' couch on demand, Fred and Lucy enroll him in dog school. Celeste and Marie enroll too, and practice faithfully every day; Fred and Lucy are too busy to practice with McDuff. Soon Celeste has a bored McDuff running through the basic commands perfectly along with Marie—in French, so on the last day of class, McDuff humiliates Fred and Lucy by not responding to their English commands. Celeste puts him through his paces in French to win a red ribbon, and the two families celebrate with "a grand French picnic." Wells injects a warm humor into this brief story (Marie barks in French: "Ouf!") that, despite a real rise in the level of complexity over previous McDuff books, delivers its message directly and without preachiness. Jeffers's illustrations infuse her canine subjects with enormous personality (a wistful McDuff peers through the fence as Marie earns yet another liver truffle), and her sunny retro world retains its charm from the earlier books. An illustrated glossary of French commands, including pronunciation guides, follows the story. McDuff's fans are well served by this offering. Ouf! (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
MCDUFF SAVES THE DAY by Rosemary Wells
Released: June 1, 2001

Mischievous and much-loved McDuff, the West Highland white terrier, returns for a seventh adventure in this successful series from old pros (and Westie owners) Wells and Jeffers (McDuff Goes to School, 2001, etc.). Anyone who has ever packed up a baby and related paraphernalia for a day-long outing will smile at the piles of equipment for this Fourth of July beach picnic, including a well-stocked picnic basket, an inflatable Float-a-Boat, Slug-a-Bug insect repellent, and the delightfully named Handy Dandy Foldaway Baby Emergency Travel Kit. When aggressive ants carry away the family picnic, McDuff saves the day by befriending a lonely older man, Mr. DiMaggio, who gracefully shares his elaborate picnic with McDuff's family: parents Fred and Lucy and their unnamed baby girl. (Though children won't care, adults may wonder why this '30s-era baby girl is dressed for a family outing in overalls rather than a dress, and why her doting mother forgot the baby's bonnet.) The cozy, old-fashioned story is simple enough to be understood by younger preschoolers, with enough humor from McDuff's antics to entertain all the children in the family and their parents, too. Jeffers provides her usual polished, supportive illustrations that capture McDuff's sly attitude down to the last whisker. Readers will relish her final double-page spread of the little car chugging homeward against a midnight-blue sky filled with flamboyant fireworks. This story could serve as preparation for Fourth of July fireworks celebrations or as a summertime treat to tuck into an old-fashioned wicker picnic basket. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2001

Jeffers returns to illustrating Brown (Baby Animals, 1989) as she sets four previously unpublished poems to bright, crisply detailed outdoor scenes featuring an animated teddy bear investigating an idyllic natural world. In the first, a sort of companion piece to Runaway Bunny, Bear toddles off into a field of tall May flowers, but sings to a left-behind parent that though distances may separate them, "It's a long time that I'll love you, / Never, never go away." The bear/child then bends down to examine a world in which "little things creep / In their green grass forests deep . . . ." Next he experiences as much as hears "The Song of Wind and Rain," and finally finishes with an excursion along a river bank to watch little boats go "Slow slow / In the soft fall of the snow." Though Jeffers confesses that she isn't sure whether Brown considered these rough drafts or finished pieces, they read smoothly enough, and the lovely pictures make them into small stories that capture their sense as well as their depth of feeling perfectly.(Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
MCDUFF'S NEW FRIEND by Rosemary Wells
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

Out trots McDuff (McDuff Moves In, 1997, etc.), this time to wait for Santa on Christmas Eve, in a story that subverts the cozy domesticity that has been a series hallmark in the name of a less-interesting fantasy. Fred, Lucy, and their baby are waiting with their West Highland terrier, McDuff, for the arrival of Santa Claus. A blizzard swirls outside, worrying them all. After they have all retired for the night, McDuff repeatedly hears noises, and wishes to investigate. For each foray, Fred has to dig a passageway through the snow. Trying Fred's patience, McDuff insists on yet another exploratory walk, and they find Santa all tangled up in the garage, looking for a snow shovel so he can dig his sleigh out of a snowdrift. He is untangled and taken into the kitchen, where Lucy has soup and sandwiches ready. The gifts he gives before dashing away include a kitten for McDuff. The illustrations, with their 1950s sensibility, are warm and eye-catching, right down to a molded Jell-o salad Lucy has prepared; that kind of realistic touch doesn't fit with the image of a full-blown Santa, right there in the kitchen. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
MCDUFF MOVES IN by Rosemary Wells
Released: April 1, 1997

A little white dog that nobody wants tumbles off the dogcatcher's truck and into the home of Lucy and Fred in a story from Wells (Bunny Cakes, p. 67, etc.) that recalls a time when compassion wasn't in such short supply. After his fall from the truck, the little white dog goes from house to house, barking at doors and garnering chilly responses from growling dogs and hissing cats. A young couple in pajamas, robes, and slippers, rousted from their beds, invite the bedraggled dog into their home to feed and bathe, and then set out for the pound. Before they've gone far, they admit to each other that they don't want to take the dog back. A late-night feast of McDuff's Melt In Your Mouth Shortbread Biscuits gives the dog his new name: McDuff. Cars, appliances, and textile prints set this several decades ago; Jeffers works in a painterly style that complements the unadorned text: ``He needed something to eat. He needed a warm place to sleep. So he went looking.'' In atmosphere and outlook, this book—the first in a series—is a kindred spirit of Marjorie Flack's Angus stories from the 1940s. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
LASSIE COME-HOME by Rosemary Wells
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Eric Knights 1940 classic started out a short story; here Wells and Jeffers (Waiting For The Evening Star, 1993) bring it back to that length, enhanced with solemn, elegant artwork. The plot is evergreen in its appeal: When Joes unemployed father reluctantly sells Lassie to the Duke of Rudling, she escapes three times and then again, even after she's been hauled from Yorkshire to Scotland. She endures dreadful abuse and privation as she travels nearly a thousand miles home. Wells tells the tale in a lean, episodic, quick-paced way, describing Joes heartbreak and Lassies physical trials in precise, effective phrases as she highlights the contrasts between rich and poor, kind and cruel. Jefferss paintings range in size from vignettes to a wordless full spread; her finely-detailed figures pose gracefully against sweeping landscapes or neat, well-kept interiors. A timeless tale, handsomely turned out and made available at last, in its essentials, to younger readers. (Picture book 7-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

With a well-honed narrative and expansive, beautifully detailed illustrations in Jeffers's signature crosshatch and watercolor, an evocation of Vermont country life pre-WW I. Berty watches the men cut ice to ship to Boston; shares syrup on snow; helps Grandmother start seeds indoors in early spring (transplanted carrots and peas in a book listing two farm museums as resources stretches credibility, but never mind); and listens to older brother Luke's dreams of the larger world as trains steam by. It all ends with Luke's departure, in 1917, for the Navy, and Berty's new realization of inexorable change through the passage of time—and with a wish, on a star, for his brother. There's some poetic license here—hunting dandelions in the woods, red autumn foliage in early September—but, overall, the details, from milk can to parlor stove, are authentic and meticulously rendered, while the era's comfortable, provincial security is nicely conveyed. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

In the 1850's, when the US wanted to buy his people's Pacific Northwest land, Chief Seattle delivered this eloquent message to a Commissioner of Indian Affairs; since then, it has been adapted several times, by Joseph Campbell among others. Poetic and compelling, it's a plea to revere and preserve the web of creation: "Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.'' Jeffers's finely detailed art focuses on the beauty and nobility of the Native Americans' world, with a tidy clear-cut forest to represent the depredations to come. A handsome setting for an ever-more resonant appeal. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 5+)Read full book review >