THE CRYSTAL HEART

A VIETNAMESE LEGEND

High in her lonely tower, a mandarin’s daughter, Mi Nuong, gazes through a crescent window. A song floats up to her: “My love is like a blossom in the breeze. My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.” The girl is smitten. The song comes from a man gliding past the palace, rowing a fishing boat on the river. Her maid suggests it may be Mi Nuong’s intended, a mandarin’s son, in disguise. “Yes. Perhaps he is,” Mi Nuong murmurs, now really star-struck. But when it is revealed to her that the singer is only a poor fisherman, she laughs in his face. The fisherman, who had fallen in love with Mi Nuong at first sight, shrinks back to his humble cottage and dies, his heart having “turned hard to stop the pain.” It has also turned into a wondrous crystal that sits on the chest of his lifeless body, and the fisherman’s fellow villagers float it down the river to mingle with the ocean. It ends up on Mi Nuong’s beach, fashioned into a teacup, and when she goes to drink from it, she meets the fisherman’s eyes and realizes her folly. Her tears, falling into the cup, set his soul free. It is a keen tale of false expectations and confused priorities that Shepard (Master Maid, 1997, etc.) retells, where the power of a naive comment tips over into mortal cruelty. For his first picture book, Fiedler produces exquisite artwork; the landscapes are magically transporting, while the lustrous colors radiate an antique, spiritual quality. (Picture book/folklore. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-81551-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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BUBBA, THE COWBOY PRINCE

A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE

A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman (The Year of No More Corn, 1993, etc.) and the insouciance of Warhola, who proves himself only too capable of creating a fairy godcow; that she's so appealingly whimsical makes it easy to accept the classic tale's inversions. The protagonist is Bubba, appropriately downtrodden and overworked by his wicked stepdaddy and loathsome brothers Dwayne and Milton, who spend their days bossing him around. The other half of the happy couple is Miz Lurleen, who owns ``the biggest spread west of the Brazos.'' She craves male companionship to help her work the place, ``and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute as a cow's ear, either.'' There are no surprises in this version except in the hilarious way the premise plays itself out and in Warhola's delightful visual surprises. When Lurleen tracks the bootless Bubba down, ``Dwayne and Milton and their wicked daddy threw chicken fits.'' Bubba and babe, hair as big as a Texas sun, ride off to a life of happy ranching, and readers will be proud to have been along for the courtship. (Picture book/folklore. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-590-25506-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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THE DOG THAT DUG FOR DINOSAURS

This easy reader for children reading at the fluency level recounts the story of a girl named Mary Ann Anning and her dog, Tray. They lived on the coast of England in the early 1800s, although the time frame is given only as “a long, long time ago.” Mary Ann and Tray became famous for their discoveries of fossils, including dinosaur bones. They discovered the first pterodactyl found in England, and the name was assigned to their fossil. The story focuses a little too much on the dog, and the title misses a great opportunity to completely acknowledge a girl accomplishing something important in the scientific world, especially in a much earlier era and without formal training or education. Despite this drawback, both Mary Ann and Tray are appealing characters and the discovery of the fossils and subsequent notice from scientists, collectors, and even royalty is appealing and well written. Sullivan’s illustrations provide intriguing period details in costumes, tools, and buildings, as well as a clever front endpaper of fossil-strewn ground covered with muddy paw prints. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85708-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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