Books by Tom Pohrt

ORDINARY SINS by Jim Heynen
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 11, 2014

"Perhaps 'flash fiction' is the name for these stories, but Heynen has been writing them since before that term came into vogue."
A collection of very short pieces—some less than one page, none longer than two—that find inspiration in character sketches written by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus. Read full book review >
FINDING SUSIE by Sandra Day O’Connor
ANIMALS
Released: June 23, 2009

The retired Supreme Court justice recounts her experiences with childhood pets in this overlong story that will not hold the interest of most children. Young Sandra is an only child living on a Southwestern ranch with her parents and their ranch hands. Though Sandra has her own horse, she wants a smaller pet that she can care for and play with. Over a two-year time frame, she cycles through various wild animals that she tries to keep as pets (a tortoise, a cottontail rabbit, a young coyote and a baby bobcat), reluctantly letting her acquisitions return to the wild as each proves to be an unsuitable pet. A local storeowner finally gives Sandra a stray dog named Susie, who satisfies the child's longing for a cuddly companion. The story is written in a detached, old-fashioned style, with little emotion—or even motion itself—conveyed in either the text or Pohrt's illustrations. Life on a cattle ranch in the Depression must have been adventurous, but this interpretation lacks much excitement or novelty. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE CATS OF ROXVILLE STATION by Jean Craighead George
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2009

A cruel woman and her abusive children once owned Ratchet, a young, orange, female tabby. Once the children have gone off to school, the woman tosses Ratchet off a bridge near the Roxville Train Station. Ratchet survives and quickly integrates herself into the feral-cat community and the larger natural community in the area. Thirteen-year-old Mike would love to have a cat, but his foster mother, Mrs. Dibber, hates animals. From his first sighting of Ratchet, Mike knows they are meant to be special friends. As Mike slowly ingratiates himself with Ratchet, she survives a fox attack, fumigation, her first litter and developers who need the cats out of the way so they can improve the train station. Newbery winner and naturalist George packs a lot of natural information on species from mosquitoes to owls in this slim volume. There is no anthropomorphization of the cats; when Ratchet and the other cats "talk" it is with scent and body language. Pohrt's line drawings complement the text nicely. Cat lovers and George's fans will be happy she is back. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE WALLS OF CARTAGENA by Julia Durango
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 29, 2008

In the voice of a reflective storyteller, a slave boy in 17th-century Cartagena, Colombia, tells his story of the injustice around him and how he makes a difference. Born on a Portuguese slave ship and rescued by Father Pedro, a Jesuit priest, 13-year-old Calepino is raised by a wealthy Spanish benefactor. Because Calepino speaks 11 languages, Father Pedro uses him as an interpreter when caring for slaves freshly arrived from Africa. He dreads descending into the slave ships with "hundreds of half-dead, terrified souls chained inside the cargo hold" and marvels at Father Pedro's saintly endurance. He also admires the selfless dedication of the Jewish doctor who cares for the exiled lepers of Cartagena. Touched by an Angolan slave and her son, Calepino vows to help them, but how? Then their very lives are threatened and he finds his own way to save them. Based on real historical characters, this fictionalized account offers both well-researched detail on a buried chapter in the African slave saga and a clever young hero. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

The creators of The Wishing Bone: and Other Poems (2003) offer two gently massaged chestnuts and a lesser-known bonbon from various versions of Arabian Nights. Sandwiched by "Ali Baba" and a full rendition of "Aladdin," Mitchell's retelling of "Abu Keer and Abu Seer"—which he suggests from internal evidence is "the most modern of all the tales"—puts a scheming Egyptian dyer and a kindly, forgiving barber through several sudden and severe reversals of fortune. Though he does slip in the occasional anachronistic touch, such as a feast in "Aladdin" that includes "crystal bowls filled with pistachio, almond, cherry-chocolate, and mocha-chip ice cream," most of Mitchell's additions to the three stories are seamless. And he tells each tale in a fluid prose that is divided into short chapters and largely free of the usual heavy-handed ornamental flourishes. Following Mitchell's (and Sir Richard Burton's) lead, Pohrt gives Aladdin Chinese features in his finely detailed illustrations, and endows all of his figures, even the genies, with distinct, animated personalities. Rich in danger, intrigue and astonishing acts of largesse, these celebrations of loyalty, courage and generosity are as entertaining as they are edifying. (extensive source notes) (Folktales. 10-12)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE GENTLEMAN by Philippa Pearce
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

When the invalided Mr. Franklin engages Bet, his housekeeper's young granddaughter, to read aloud to no one in particular in the meadow outside his house, she soon discovers that she is, in fact, reading aloud to a mole—no ordinary mole, but a magicked mole, who has been cursed with eternal life and the capacity for human intelligence and speech. What ensues is a deliberate tale of friendship and belonging, as the mole confides his desire to lose his magic and become "wholly mole" and Bet responds in kind, revealing her essential loneliness and her anxiety over returning to the mother who left her at birth. Best known for her 1958 classic, Tom's Midnight Garden, Pearce here delivers another small gem, in which what is told takes back seat to the telling. The give-and-take of the relationship between girl and mole is beautifully rendered, their growing affection and need for each other presented with precise understatement. When they resolve to reverse the magic and return the mole to his natural state, Bet's agony of decision is entirely believable, and very nearly tragic. Perfectly unusual, perfectly lovely. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE WISHING BONE by Stephen Mitchell
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2003

Plainly channeling Edward Lear and maybe Lewis Carroll too, Mitchell (Hans Christian Andersen's Nightingale, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline, 2002, etc.) offers nine rhymed ruminations, daffy episodes, and glimpses of imaginary wildlife, all illustrated, and sometimes illuminated, by Pohrt's (The Tomb of the Boy King, 2001, etc.) small, clean-lined, delicately exact figures. In the lengthy centerpiece, an expedition in search of "The Last of the Purple Tigers" sets out from Bangalore to track down "the very rarest animal / that you could ever find. / Just three men had set eyes on her / (and two of them were blind)." In other poems, a trial for an unspecified crime ends in an acquittal thanks to a huge bribe of food, the poet has a polite conversation with the Sun, receives nonsense answers from a white rhinoceros, and a transformative blow on the head from a frog—"A light went on inside my brain: / ‘Aha!' I cried with glee. / The world was bright and boisterous, / And I—released, rejoisterous— / Felt rounder than a pea." Mitchell's rhymes roll easily off the tongue, and as in the title poem, in which a weary wisher ultimately wishes away a magic bone's ability to grant them, there's a pervasive philosophical cast that will give thoughtful readers something to chew on. A handsomely packaged, nicely diverse gathering of words and art. (Poetry. 9-13)Read full book review >
THE TOMB OF THE BOY KING by John Frank
BIOGRAPHY
Released: April 9, 2001

The exciting tale of the archaeological dig that resulted in the discovery of the incredible treasures of King Tut's tomb. All the details are included: the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining financing, the daily tedium and labor, the superstitious belief that there was a curse on the site and, of course, the amazing riches they found. Frank (Erin's Voyage, 1994, etc.) brings the characters of Carter, Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn, and Abdul Ali to life and manages to convey the mystery and wonder surrounding the venture in a fast-paced, almost breathless account—told entirely in verse. Frank has chosen to use a somewhat awkward ABCB rhyme scheme. But the main problem lies in the lack of consistency. Only a few of the stanzas are self-contained thoughts. Most are incomplete and continue, not always smoothly, onto the next stanza. Some of the poetry sings, but sometimes the reader is stopped cold. Therefore it takes some effort, and several readings, to find just the right flow in Frank's verses; they need to be read as a kind of rhythmic prose. Younger readers may find the style too difficult and would probably benefit from an initial read-aloud by an adult. But it is definitely worth the effort. An epilogue presents a great deal of additional information, and leaves some questions, especially that of the supposed curse, intriguingly unanswered. The lovely, softly colored illustrations are a charming mixture of Egyptian motifs and detailed paintings depicting well-chosen vignettes from the story. A great way to pique interest in a discovery that's still fascinating after so many years. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME by Tom Pohrt
Released: April 7, 1999

The illustrator of Barry Lopez's Crow and Weasel (1990) moves to a more delicate style and palette to create this set of winsome pictures—accompanying, unfortunately, an aimless half-story. Weary of winter, young Eva and her cat Sam embark on the zeppelin La Grande Banane for a sunny, unnamed North African country. After being driven out of their hotel room by a gang of domino-playing insects, the two take a camel named Cassis across the desert to the elegant Crocodile CafÇ, contrive to escape when they discover themselves to be featured items on tomorrow's menu, and are last seen penning postcards to friends back home. Depicted with transparent colors and thin, graceful lines, Eva and her feline companion exude similar airs of poised self-confidence, meeting each reversal of fortune with cheerful aplomb. Readers will fall in love with these intrepid vacationers, making the plot, which never comes to more than a handful of random incidents, all the more unsatisfactory. A misfire, albeit a promising one; readers will long to see Sam and Eva again, but in a stronger story. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
COYOTE GOES WALKING by Tom Pohrt
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 12, 1995

In his first solo, Pohrt (Bruce Donehower's Miko, Little Hunter of the North, 1990, etc.) paints exquisite pictures, but the four stories he adapts don't quite add up to a complete portrait of the mythic figure of Native American legend. The introduction emphasizes Coyote's trickster nature; the tales portray him more as a victim of his own mischief. In episode one, he acts like a god, creating people out of mud. He quickly descends in stature, attempting to crash a party of mice inside an elk skull, which winds up on his head. Then he tries to mimic a woodpecker with disastrous results. The final episode shows him learning a lesson at the hands of a buffalo ghost. The stories are too meager to satisfy, but there's a nice verve in the telling, and the perfectly rendered animals are a joy to behold. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
A CHILD'S ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY by Elizabeth Hauge Sword
POETRY
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

A fine anthology of poems that caters equally to the tastes of young children and older ones. The approximately 250 poems are arranged in alphabetical order by author and are successfully balanced among different genres. There are examples of traditional children's poetry, contemporary works, didactic moral poems, philosophical poetry, narrative pieces (including ``Casey at the Bat''), animal poems, and even poems about poetry. Among those poets with four or more selections: William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Rachel Field, Robert Frost, Henry W. Longfellow, Theodore Roethke, Christina Rossetti, William Carlos Williams, William Wordsworth, and William B. Yeats. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Poetry. 7+) Read full book review >