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THE WEDDING DRESS MESS

A zealous seamstress very nearly misses out on her own wedding when she places the emphasis on her dress, not the occasion. It makes perfect sense that the “finest seamstress in Italy” would have ambitious dreams for her own wedding dress. Indeed, “Whenever Filomena stitched a wedding dress, she’d get a dreamy look on her face. ‘If this were my wedding dress,’ she’d sigh. . . . ” So when Filippo, the fix-it man across the plaza finally works up the courage to propose, Filomena happily accepts and starts in on her dress, leaving Filippo to his own designs. When the dress is finally finished, it is such an overdone horror that Filippo flees the altar, prompting Filomena to realize that she’s lost sight of what is really important about a wedding. Cantone’s (Zara Zebra Counts, not reviewed, etc.) mixed-media illustrations feature elongated, almost conical line-and-watercolor characters (each with a distinctly pronounced and delicately rouged nose) against wild backgrounds that mix collage elements with free-floating text (in English, for the most part). The wild-eyed Filomena and Filippo have a definite zany appeal, as does the spread in which a fleeing Filippo rides his scooter along a nuptial game-board path, a de-frocked Filomena in full pursuit. Hort’s translation, too, has considerable tongue-in-cheek zip: “She hustled out of her bustle.” But there’s something missing in the story itself: while little girls may have a fascination with weddings, the narrative has a distinctly adult sensibility. Filomena’s essential mistake—her preoccupation with preparations to the exclusion of her fiancé—is not one children will likely be able to relate to. This energetic Italian import may make a good gag gift for engaged couples—but not so great for its intended young audience. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8230-1738-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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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. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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