Book List

Reviewing the Legends: Children's

Clean, clear, brillant design, with no drag.

FREIGHT TRAIN

As trains do, this one simply—splendidly simply—comes and goes.

Starting with an empty track, Crews sets down and names the six different ears: each a different primer-bright color, all together a streaking rainbow when pulled along by the moving black engine. Through tunnel and city and darkness and daylight moves the freight train, "Going, going—gone," leaving behind a trail of smoke and a strong, sharp impression.

Clean, clear, brillant design, with no drag.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1978

ISBN: 0688117015

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1978

A soupcon of security for displaced preschoolers, and a glowing companion to The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie.

PETER'S CHAIR

Peter has a new baby sister and she preempts his old cradle, his crib and his high chair, each newly painted pink.

To prevent his father from transforming his little blue chair also, Peter gathers up chair, toy crocodile, dog Willie and a "picture of me when I was a baby," and runs away—to the sidewalk in front of the house. But when he attempts to sit down in the little blue chair, he discovers that he is too big. His mother tempts him with "something special for lunch" and Peter rejoins the family—in a grown-up chair. "Daddy," says Peter, "let's paint the little chair pink for Suzy." The adjustment is accomplished with a minimum of moralizing and a maximum of visual involvement.

A soupcon of security for displaced preschoolers, and a glowing companion to The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie.

Pub Date: May 1, 1967

ISBN: 978-0670880645

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1967

OX-CART MAN

Plain but pleasingly cadenced, concrete as the list of commodities that makes up much of the text, yet radiating a sense of life's cyclic rhythms, this tells of an early New England farmer going off to Portsmouth market. He sells products the family has raised and grown, sells products they have made from what they raised and grew, then sells the containers (apple barrel, potato bag) the goods were in, and finally sells his ox cart, harness, and ox, before buying some humble household tools and walking home (with "coins still in his pocket") to start again. . . "stitching a new harness for the young ox in the barn." Without Cooney's illustrations—comely and decorous scenes in the manner of early American folk painting—this might seem almost too plain. But she makes a satisfying, full (and eye-filling) experience of the everyday round, as she follows the farmer and his family through the peaceful countryside and the changing seasons—reflecting their unselfconscious accord with nature in her own seamless accord with the text.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 1979

ISBN: 978-0-670-53328-2

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979

And the dream that becomes the plane Dragonwings lifts this into a world where truth and imagination are one.

DRAGONWINGS

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

In the beginning, all is strangeness to Moon Shadow as he leaves the Middle Kingdom to join his father in the Land of the Golden Mountain. . . only to end up in the Tang people's quarter of San Francisco where the drunken "demons" often beat up Tang men and his uncle Black Dog, an opium smoker and a crook, keeps the family all too involved with the brotherhoods.

Later, Moon Shadow actually makes friends with a red-faced demon, the doughty Mrs. Whitlaw, and lives in the demon part of town until the earthquake comes. But this is mostly the story of Moon Shadow's devotion to his dreamer father, who is given the name Windrider by the Dragon King himself in a vision and who fulfills his destiny by building, at enormous sacrifice, a twelve horsepower airplane similar to the one the Wrights had flown only a few years before. Windrider (based loosely on an actual Chinese-American aviator) is a fascinating figure who believes deeply in the old myths and is entranced by the new magic of electricity, motor cars and aeronautics. Other elements, such as Moon Shadow's rapprochement with Mrs. Whit. law—he learns to drink a disgusting substance called cow's milk, she rethinks her old ideas about dragons—depend more on familiar tensions and humorous accommodations. Even so, this is a realm of exprience almost unknown to us demons.

And the dream that becomes the plane Dragonwings lifts this into a world where truth and imagination are one.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1975

ISBN: 978-0-06-440085-5

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1975

This is not a story to be judged on grounds of probability, but one which makes its own insistent reality; it endures along...

THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN

Herewith — Junior Brown, a 300-pound musical prodigy who plays a silenced piano so as not to disturb his asthmatic, overprotective mother; Buddy Clark, his homeless friend and real protector, member of a city-wide network of "Tomorrow Billys" who care for needy street kids in underground "planets"; Mr. Pool, a compassionate teacher-turned-janitor who hides the boys for ten weeks in the school basement, where they construct a mechanized solar system instead of attending their eighth-grade classes; Miss Peebs, an aging music teacher who transmits to Junior her delusion of a filthy, diseased relative in her living room.

Such a list can't begin to convey the impact of this disturbing story, which ends with Buddy and Mr. Pool lowering the unhinged runaway Junior to Buddy's planet, where the younger boys will help him according to Buddy's teachings: "We are together because we have to learn to live for each other." Adults will find the boys' grotesque world strong substance in a juvenile novel, as indeed it is, but children of any color (these boys are black) who are attuned to the bizarre elements in their own cosmos will be encouraged by the emerging planets, evidence of Mr. Pool's belief that the human race is still to come, and that his boys are "forerunners on the road down which the race (will) have to pass."

This is not a story to be judged on grounds of probability, but one which makes its own insistent reality; it endures along with its promise long after the story ends.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 1971

ISBN: 1416914102

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

Nonetheless, a fine, useful contribution. (Fiction. 8-12)

TAKING SIDES

Lincoln Mendoza, 12, has felt in limbo ever since moving from San Francisco's Mission District barrio to neat, tree-lined Sycamore—a feeling exacerbated by a game his basketball team is going to play against his former team.

Various forces work on Lincoln's fragile sense of identity: he senses that his coach has it in for him because he's Mexican-American; he has trouble accepting his mother's white boyfriend; and he's accused by his main man from the barrio of going "soft'' living among whites. Sorting through these internal and external prejudices, Lincoln comes to realize that life isn't a matter of taking sides but of integrating the new with the old. Soto (Baseball in April, 1990) creates a believable, compelling picture of the stress that racial prejudice places on minority children. He respects the intelligence of his readers, sparing dramatics and allowing them to read between the lines of his quiet yet powerful scenes and bringing the racial issue closer to home for a mainstream readership: the Mendozas are now suburban and middle class and could be anyone's neighbors. There's a tad too much Spanish (it becomes tiresome to read Spanish followed by its translation), and the glossary of Spanish terms should point out that Mexican idioms are included.

Nonetheless, a fine, useful contribution. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-15-284076-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

Clear historical perspective on an easy-reading level. Recent Life article may direct interest.

A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE NEGRO IN AMERICA

Coverage of the life of the Negro in the United States from pre-revolutionary days to the present provides a straight-forward text along with some 1000 illustrations from prints, engravings, woodcuts, photographs, paintings.

They take in the important events and episodes in economic and political history, cite the general lot and trend of a people's progress as well as specific legislation and action, people who have worked for the cause of equal rights and Negroes who have made exceptional contributions. Cinque, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Montgomery bus boycott — all are here — and through this writing we see the theme of slavery versus equality stretching from the country's early days to now.

Clear historical perspective on an easy-reading level. Recent Life article may direct interest.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1956

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1956

Hopefully, Prydain's history will be continued.

THE BOOK OF THREE

From the Chronicles of Prydain series , Vol. 1

Prydain is an imagined territory, somewhat like Wales and peopled with characters whose genealogy stretches back to Welsh legend.

The Book of Three takes up Prydain's history during a wonderfully uncertain time — perhaps at the end of the Dark and the start of the Middle Ages. Mankind was still in the process of "becoming" in Prydain then. For instance, there are two characters here who begin to cross the line into humanity — Gurgi, a near animal, comic in his cowardice and irresponsibility, who begins the change by responding to kindness through serving with no ulterior motive for once; Doli, a dwarf who left his enchanted underground world behind because he had forgotten the trick of making himself invisible. In fact, the people of the time were forgetting, too. There were still those who could control occult power, but the methods of invoking it were not being systematically handed down; some was lost and some hoarded for evil ends. Taran, young boy, dubbed "Assistant Pig Keeper" to satisfy his dreams of glory, is the central character. A ward of the wizard, Dallben, he is in charge of an oracular pig, Hen Wen. His search for her after a raid by the horrible Horned King brings him to such strong fantasy characters as: Gwydion, a prince who teaches him the first principle of leadership — self control; Eilonwy, a runaway junior witch, and Fflewddur, an incompetent bard. If these characters don't suggest T.H. White's treatment of the Arthurian legends, they should. The author draw his figures with the same touches of irritability, doltishness and contrariness that leavens with high good humor the high fantasy. The major theme is good against evil— black magic against white — but (give thanks for creative restraint) only to a draw.

Hopefully, Prydain's history will be continued.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 1964

ISBN: 0805080481

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Holt Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1964

Omakayas cannot find her way back to happiness until an odd old woman tells her the truth of her past, in a novel that is by...

THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE

With this volume, Erdrich (Grandmother’s Pigeon, 1996, etc.) launches her cycle of novels about a 19th-century Ojibwa family, covering in vivid detail their everyday life as they move through the seasons of one year on an island on Lake Superior.

A baby girl crawls among the bodies of her family, dead from smallpox. After that stinging beginning, an unexpectedly enjoyable story follows, replete with believable characterizations, humor, family love, and misadventures. Omakayas, now seven, adores baby brother Neewo, detests rambunctious five-year-old brother Pinch, and worships her beautiful teenage sister, Angeline. Omakayas works and plays through the summer and fall, learning the ways of her people; she has a frightful adventure with bears and adopts a young raven as a pet. But in winter smallpox again affects her life: Neewo dies, and Angeline is scarred for life.

Omakayas cannot find her way back to happiness until an odd old woman tells her the truth of her past, in a novel that is by turns charming, suspenseful, and funny, and always bursting with life. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-0300-2

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense...

TOTALLY JOE

One quarter of the “Gang of Five” from The Misfits (2001) tells his own story of coming out and overcoming bullies and prejudice through alphabetical entries in his “alphabiography.”

Joe Bunch aka JoDan aka Scorpio (among other names) works his way from October to March to fulfill his teacher Mr. Daly’s assignment to write about his life from A to Z, including “life lessons” at the end of each entry. Though things do go Joe’s way, the story is nothing but realistic. Howe has created a character that lives and breathes with all of the inconsistencies, fears and longings of your normal average seventh-grade homosexual. Joe still thinks “exchanging saliva” is excruciatingly gross, but he knows he wants to date boys. He thinks Colin is cute and fun to be with, but Joe just can’t “tone down” on command. His family is not surprised when he finally lets them in on his secret with the gentle assistance of his artistic Aunt Pam and his (sometimes overly) helpful best friend Addie.

The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense of spending extra time with a favorite friend. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-83957-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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