This lively, informative peek at life aboard a 19th-century emigrant sailing ship ably complements other titles on...

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WILHELM'S JOURNEY

A German teen describes his 1872 journey to America on the sailing ship Columbia.

Growing up poor on a farm in Germany, Wilhelm attends woodcarving school, where he learns to draw, sculpt, read, and write. Hearing about free farmland in America, he eagerly joins an expedition of emigrants from neighboring villages and travels by foot and train to Bremerhaven, where he boards the Columbia and finds a bunk in steerage for the crossing to New York City, which takes over four weeks. Presented in the format of an illustrated diary, Wilhelm’s record of his experiences includes the nitty-gritty of seasickness, bedbugs, bucket lavatories, and hardtack as well as the games children play, a storm at sea, essential navigation tools, animals and birds encountered, nautical knots, and the life of the ship’s crew. This fictional account offers the immediacy and realism of a first-person narration enlivened by spontaneous-feeling, quick sketches of passengers and crew. Sidebars and appended notes expand Wilhelm’s story with fascinating historical facts pertinent to life on an emigrant ship and American immigration, including a map of the Columbia’s route and a cross-section of the ship.

This lively, informative peek at life aboard a 19th-century emigrant sailing ship ably complements other titles on immigration. (timeline, list of museums) (Historical fiction. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4352-3

Page Count: 72

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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