THE INN-KEEPER'S APPRENTICE

Kiyoi is thrilled when the "great master," a famous cartoonist, takes him on as a student-assistant, and from that moment his life becomes rich and exciting. There are heady discussions, festive celebrations, and above all the honor of filling in the backgrounds for the master's published cartoons. There are life drawing classes, where the new student has trouble getting used to the nude models, and horizon-expanding outings—a Van Gogh show, a demonstration that turns into a riot—with his fellow apprentice, a somewhat older youth who seems disturbingly attracted to violence. There is also the pleasure of living alone in one shabby room, and the terror of discovering, when a neighbor there takes him out on the town, that the aggressive bar girls in the sinister, dim cafe are men. Say's autobiographical novel would be vibrant and affecting even if Kiyoi's were a typical art student's existence. As it is, two unusual circumstances heighten the interest: it occurs in post-World War II Japan, which gives the experience a special texture (bean cakes and kimonos and samurai tradition coexists with the Van Gogh show, Degas reproductions, and Hesse's novels); and, though it's hard to believe his grandmother's allowing him to live alone, Kiyou is only 13 when he begins his apprenticeship, 15 when he leaves to accompany his remarried father to America. A sparkling, touch-true portrait of a young person coming into his own.

Pub Date: March 1, 1979

ISBN: 006025209X

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1979

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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