An imaginative, engrossing story of triumph during times of war.

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Peppino, Good As Bread

A 9-year-old Italian boy and his mother are caught in the cross hairs of World War II in this middle-grade historical novel.

It’s the spring of 1943, and life hasn’t been easy for Peppino in recent years. His father left for America to start a new life, the Nazis moved into his family’s small Italian town, and Mussolini has aligned Italy with Germany. The German soldiers are brutish, willing to shoot anyone who dissents, and Peppino learns to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. Things get worse before they get better: the Fascist mayor relegates Peppino and his mother to living in the basement because he and his wife want the rest of their house for themselves; Peppino and his mother help hide Rachel, a Jewish refugee from Rome; and food becomes scarcer. One day in 1945, the German soldiers begin leaving town, and Peppino and his townsfolk are overjoyed. As the tide of the war turns, Peppino meets a rugby-playing, redheaded British soldier and a group of American GIs. These new friends widen his worldview and make him more determined to meet his father in America. As he and his mother contemplate rebuilding their lives in Italy, Peppino gets word from his father that they should join him in Chicago. Can Peppino convince his mother to travel across the ocean? Rubino (Emmet’s Storm, 2015) claims that most of the stories and asides here actually happened and were culled from tales passed down from her Southern Italian husband and his brethren. She’s a gifted storyteller, balancing the horrors of WWII (including mentions of mustard gas, concentration camps, and the like) with the realities of townsfolk who are just trying to see things through to the other side of the fighting. Illustrations by Cimbalo (East Utica, 2015. etc.) pepper the work, but they’re not necessary to the story; in fact, their sketchlike nature is a bit distracting. The dialogue, however, is wonderful, and a glossary at the back will help non-Italian speakers with the characters’ Italian/English hybrid language. The main character’s evolution from boy to young man is as engaging as the evolution of world events surrounding him. Overall, though, one need not be a history buff to enjoy Peppino and his tale.

An imaginative, engrossing story of triumph during times of war.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-942247-03-6

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Catree.com

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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