Books by Wendy Watson

SPUDS by Karen Hesse
by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Wendy Watson
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Ma is working late shifts but there doesn't ever seem to be enough to eat. So one frosty night Jack and Maybelle put little Eddie in a wagon with some empty sacks and sneak into a farmer's field to liberate the potatoes that are just lying there. As they load their prizes, they dream of all the mouthwatering ways Ma might cook the potatoes. Imagine their shock and disappointment when they realize that their sacks held very few potatoes and a load of stones. Ma makes them take everything back to the farmer, who kindly allows them to keep it all, saying they had helped by removing the stones. Thus they get their "fry-up" after all, but they also get some valuable lessons in integrity and compassion. Hesse uses country dialect to set the mood of tender nostalgia. The Depression-era setting is never specifically mentioned, but is conveyed entirely through the details in Watson's mixed-media illustrations, rendered in soft, muted earth tones that perfectly complement the text. A sweet, gentle tale. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

A young Jewish girl and her sister, "passing" as Polish in WWII Warsaw, plot to sneak food, brought by collaborating train passengers, into the ghetto. Their scheme is jeopardized when the Gestapo meets the train with dogs that sniff out both smugglers and contraband food. To foil the Nazis, the sisters gather up the feral cats of Krasinski Square in baskets. They release the cats as a distraction to the dogs, thus allowing the food to be smuggled into the ghetto. Skilled pacing renders the cat solution a satisfyingly subversive surprise while Watson's illustration of the flummoxed Nazis underscores the ensuing chaos. The illustrations, with their soft but firm line and monochromatic sepia-toned palette, have an appropriate retro look. Among the great historical avalanche of Holocaust stories, Hesse has found a little-known vignette that she treats with her customary modest but elevating free-verse style, making a grave subject enormously accessible, gently humorous, and affectingly triumphant. (author's note, historical note) (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 2, 2003

The frisky fox family from the Watsons' beloved classic Father Fox's Pennyrhymes (1971) celebrates Christmas together in this beautifully designed tribute to an old-fashioned holiday season. Fifteen rhyming poems follow the foxes as they decorate, make presents, play music, eat with the relatives, and play in the snow, and then enjoy their tree and presents together. Some of the poems are jolly and funny, while others are more quiet and thoughtful, speaking of candlelit walks in the forest, listening for angel voices, or wishing on the first star, "a wish for peace and love and joy." The charming foxes in their patched, old-fashioned clothes have irresistible expressions, and the exciting, candlelit spirit of the season captured in both art and poetry is irresistible as well. Like the bright flames in the foxes' hearth, this charming collection "will toast the toes and warm the heart." (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

The ornaments on a glowing Christmas tree have a life and adventures of their own in this tale with a cheerful, retro feeling. Holly the doll ornament is the star of the story, and she's a thoroughly modern miss who solves her own problems and isn't afraid of anything. Her best ornament pals are Cloth Bear, a traditional sort in a green vest, and Tin Horse, who must be an imported ornament from Mexico because he tosses Spanish terms into many of his comments. The plot centers on Holly's missing arm, which Bad Cat broke off when he was climbing up the tree attacking the ornaments. The three ornaments search for Holly's arm, fending off rude, riddle-posing Vacuum Cleaner and a marauding spider, and finally climbing into Trash Can to find the missing limb, which Santa Claus then reattaches. Watson's (Rabbit Moon, not reviewed, etc.) paintings use a muted palette lit with golden light from candles and tree lights, and she uses heavy outlining, luminous colors, and interesting perspectives to provide strong graphic interest. Though the story is a simple one, the amusing characters, folksy narrative voice, and attractive illustrations combine into a satisfying, if unusual, Christmas Eve tale. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
IS MY FRIEND AT HOME? by John Bierhorst
Released: Sept. 12, 2001

This delightful and unusual collection of trickster tales was originally told in the Hopi pueblos of Arizona in the wintertime, "especially after dark when the Sun was traveling under the earth." Watson's light-hearted illustrations, many dusted with snow, capture both the moods and the settings of the tales, a world unexpectedly reminiscent of Wind in the Willows, with its cozy animal friendships, intrigues, and small adventures. Framed with traditional beginnings ("Shall I begin? YES") and endings ("Now that's the story"), seven short, interconnected stories tell of the friendships between Coyote, Badger, Mouse, Beetle, Mole, Snake, Dove, and Bee. Many are pourquoi stories, but the emphasis is on the animal characters and their relationships. In "Why a Mouse Walks Softly," for example, Coyote and Beetle, tired of Mouse's chatter and boasting, decide to "tangle" their friend up with a song that lets her know how noisy she has been. "From then on Mouse walked softly. And she is still doing it." In "Beetle's New Life," Badger and Mole save Beetle—Badger with his medicine and Mole by building up his fire. With their lively dialogue, colorful expressions ("breath of friendship," "white dawn," "sound of healing") and understated humor, these tales will be wonderful to read aloud and to discuss. A detailed note on sources is included. (Picture book folklore. 4+)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Set to the beat of a classic folk song (darn near the catchiest tune ever penned on staves), here again is the midnight run by fox seeking take-out food for the den: goose, gray goose. With the skill of a partisan in the French Resistance, fox bags his quarry and makes for the dark woods, townsfolk in hot pursuit, homeward bound to feed the kits. Now approaching 200 years of age, this ditty about bringing home the bacon, with its outlaw edge, long ago proved its worth, so why this offering? For one, you can't get enough of a good thing; two, Watson's (editor of A Valentine for You, 1991) reduced, folksy illustrations give a real sense of fox's late night raid. Although they tame the story somewhat, the pictures have a coarseness that gives the classic a heft you can almost bite into. (Folklore/Picture book. 3+) Read full book review >
BOO! IT'S HALLOWEEN by Wendy Watson
Released: Sept. 21, 1992

Continuing her holiday series (A Valentine for You, 1991), Watson uses here the same appealing characters and New England setting, cozily set forth in an assortment of cartoon-style vignettes and more expansive illustrations; but this time she takes a somewhat different tack with a text that includes less traditional material: While the straightforward narrative describes preparations and kids making their trick-or-treat rounds, the characters (pets, too) in the pictures are asking riddle-jokes that bid fair to steal the show (`` ghosts wear?'' ``Boo jeans!''). A nicely understated change of pace from the more garish books for this holiday. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 23, 1992

In the manner of Watson's other engaging holiday books (A Valentine for You, 1991), a simple narrative of a small-town family's Fourth of July celebration (``Everything is red, white, and blue, even breakfast''), interspersed with lively traditional verse (``Strawberry, blueberry, cream of tartum,/ Tell me the initials of your sweetheartum''). A parade with everyone participating; speeches (``Republican rats, take off your hats, and make way for the Democrats!...Fried rats and pickled cats are good enough for Democrats!''); picnics, games, swimming (``Adam and Eve and Pinchme'' gets the perfect comeback—``and who?''), and fireworks—all add up to a perfect birthday party, while Watson's diminutive characters cavort charmingly across her skillfully designed pages. A pleasure. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 1991

A family prepares for and celebrates a traditional Thanksgiving, with relatives, old and young, coming from near and far. Meanwhile, nursery rhymes are tucked in a appropriate moments (``Drop a spoon, Company soon''), with the same simply delineated, comfortably plump characters used to illustrate both the rhymes and the present-day events. A welcome addition to Watson's attractive holiday books. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >