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Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science.

Crisis looms when young Sybilla Peale learns that big brother Rembrandt is taking a beloved fossil for a tour of England.

Sybilla is accustomed to living among the wildlife exhibits (“They are very well behaved. They’re stuffed”) that fill the natural history museum set up in their home by Rembrandt and their father, Charles Willson Peale. She is understandably infuriated at the news that the “magnificent!” fossil skeleton beneath which she holds her doll tea parties will be leaving. Her rebellion melts away, though, when Rembrandt actually bows to her wishes. “Even if he is bossy, he is my brother,” she reflects, and rather than force him to leave the mastodon behind she lets the bones themselves decide. Marinoni illustrates this fictional episode in the life of the multitalented Peales with painterly views of a small, blonde spark plug confidently at home amid her all-white clan, exactly rendered early-American art and furnishings…not to mention all sorts of birds, insects, fossils, and other specimens. The scale of the mastodon skeleton relative to Sybilla is jaw-dropping, emphasized in image after image. Occasional outbreaks of elegantly set italics add an appropriately antique flavor to Sybilla’s narrative, and the author adds a pair of well-chosen period illustrations to an admiring explanatory afterword.

Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56846-327-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Throughout my young days at school and just afterwards a number of things happened to me that I have never forgotten. . . . Some are funny. Some are painful. Some are unpleasant. I suppose that is why I have always remembered them so vividly." Vividly indeed: with the intimate, confiding tone of a born storyteller, Dahl turns each of his family/school memories into a miniature adventure, thriller, or horror-story—with the earthy emphasis on pleasure (food, comradeship), fear, and pain. After a brief, charming slice of family-history, explaining how his Norwegian parents came to live and prosper in Wales, Dahl gets right down to business. From the years at Llandaff Cathedral School (ages 7-9, 1923-25), there's a candy-by-candy tribute to the local sweet-shop, site of "The Great Mouse Plot": Roald and friends, fed up with the meanness of filthy sweet-shop-owner Mrs. Pratchett, secretly put a dead mouse in the Gobstopper jar—but suffered mightily for their glorious prank. (Mrs. P. reported the crime to the Headmaster—unleashing the first of many school-career canings, all described in gruesome, technicolor detail.) Summer vacations in Norway are also recalled in a mixture of ecstasy—the fish, the scenery—and agony: an operation for adenoid removal without any anesthetic. And the extremes of pleasure and pain continue through Dahl's years at two English boarding schools: homesickness, sadistic Matrons and Masters, practical jokes, the indignities of "fagging" (warming up the toilet-seat for older boys), chocolates. . . and, always, the dreaded Headmaster's cane. ("By now I am sure you will be wondering why I lay so much emphasis upon school beatings in these pages. The answer is that. . . I couldn't get over it. I never have got over it.") Some readers may be put off by Dahl's style here—chatty, bedtime-story-ish, deceptively avuncular. Others might not take to the British references (no special explanations for a US audience), or the particularly British approach—full of bitter humor and odd relish—to grisly, gory matters. But those who've appreciated Dahl in various forms will find both the master of chills and the lover of chocolate here—in a fine, juicy collage of funny/awful boyhood highlights.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0374373744

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1984

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