Books by Suzanne Duranceau

WITHOUT YOU by Sarah Weeks
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"Where would I be, / What would I do, / Who in the world would see me through . . . " croons a penguin hatchling from the feet of its protective father as, huddled together, the two wait long months for mother's return. Duranceau alternates blue-tinged scenes of gracefully posed Emperor penguin fathers and offspring on land, with undersea views of the mothers, all of whom are off braving the ocean's dangers to feed before returning, at long last, to a joyful reunion. Then it's the fathers' turn to be off. Weeks explains this annual natural cycle in an egg-shaped preface, and sings the tender lyrics on an enclosed CD (not heard). Library shelves tend to be crowded with portraits of penguin life, but this is an unusually appealing one, with particular resonance for families with temporarily absent parents. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
HICKORY, DICKORY, DOCK by Robin Muller
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Despite a pretitle vignette of a landscape draped in droopy clocks, the surreal nonsense here is more dada than Dali. In verses modeled on the nursery rhyme (``Margery, bargery, bow,/The monkey stubbed his toe./The clock struck three,/He spilled the tea...''), the hours advance to midnight (``Hickory, dickory, date''); meanwhile, in a room crowded with ornate objects (clocks are everywhere, their faces adorning wallpaper and glimmering atop hats), several animals (an elegant cat, a debonair masked mouse, a cow falling out of a picture that falls from the wall) engage in slapstick that's tenuously related to preparing for a celebration. The illustrations are rendered with artistry and precision, and children may enjoy trying to decode the goings on and checking out the synchronized clocks. But nonsense requires its own logic; ultimately, this effort is simply too incoherent to work. There are too many miscellaneous details, the verse isn't especially clever, and the absurdities are neither funny enough nor intriguing enough to be worth puzzling over. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
TREE BY LEAF by Cynthia Voigt
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: March 1, 1988

In a spiritual companion to The Runner, Clothilde—another child with an angry, paternalistic heritage—emerges from a traumatic summer with the strength and resolve to go on to a productive life. When Father went off to WW I, his tyrannical Boston Brahmin father refused to support Mother (scorned as a Catholic orphan) and the children; now Father has returned with a cruelly scarred face and is living hidden in the boathouse on the Maine peninsula that Clothilde has inherited. Mother, who has competently managed the nearby farmhouse for four years, reverts to the ladylike behavior she erroneously believes Father requires, and says that Clothilde's land must be sold to support the family and that Clothilde must do the housework. In an agony of helpless frustration, Clothilde hears a Voice—a hallucination precipitated by the intolerable situation, or by God. "Why do you make wars?" she asks. The Voice replies, ". . .men do," and inquires, "What would you mend?" She requests gifts for others, including healing for Father, and her wishes are granted—but not as she envisions; yet the ensuing tragedies, by their own inexorable logic, lead to healing and the understanding that things that are to grow cannot be controlled. Clothilde's powerful vision is wiser than even an extraordinarily perceptive child of 12 (which she is) could generate; but as the crux of this complex, beautifully structured novel, it serves its purpose well. Not an easy book nor one destined to be popular, but surely rewarding for thoughtful readers. Read full book review >
THE CALLENDER PAPERS by Cynthia Voigt
FICTION
Released: April 21, 1983

Less ambitious than Voigt's other novels, this conforms to an established juvenile fiction genre, but it is a superior example of its type. Written in the first person with a touch of period primness, it's the story of Jean Wainwright's 13th summer in 1894, which she spends away from Aunt Constance, the admirable girls'-school headmistress who raised her, in the employ of wintery Mr. Thiel, the widow of Aunt Constance's girlhood friend Irene Callender. Mr. Thiel has summoned Jean to sort and dispose of several cartons of Callender family papers, a dull and bewildering task. But the Callender family mystery proves more intriguing: Why is Mr. Thiel not on speaking terms with Enoch Callender, Irene's younger brother, who lives nearby? Was Irene murdered, and if so by whom? And what happened to her child, who disappeared soon after its mother's death? As the summer and her task proceed, Jean becomes better acquainted with both Enoch and Mr. Thiel, and with Mac, the local doctor's son, who becomes her partner in tracking down the family secrets. Jean herself is poisoned, but whether purposely or by accident, whether in Enoch's home or in Mr. Thiel's, she can't be sure. It becomes clear that she's in danger, but from which side? Perhaps old Mr. Callender's will, which could answer much, can be found among the family papers. At times the conflicting claims are almost too much for Jean, whose uncertain judgment leads her into a potentially perilous situation. But through it all she exhibits a direct good sense and alert intelligence that win regard from all parties, and from readers as well. Readers may suspect all along what Jean discovers only at the end—that she herself is the Callender heir, Mr. Thiel is her father, and Enoch, spoiled and discontented, is responsible for his doting sister's death. But knowing that doesn't lessen the suspense or the satisfaction to be found in this engaging, aptly plotted, character-centered identity-mystery. Read full book review >