POPPY'S COMBINE

Sensitive text is paired with uneven artwork in this picture book designed to help children cope with the loss of a grandparent.

Jake, a pre-school or kindergarten-aged tyke, loves visiting his grandfather, Poppy, on the farm. Farming is no longer a tradition in his family, and according to Jake’s mother, when Poppy is “gone,” the family farm will be, too. Jake doesn’t understand where Poppy might be going though his mother assures him that Poppy won’t be going anywhere for a long time. But the conversation is prophetic—that night, Jake’s mother receives the phone call that Poppy has died. As Jake’s mother explains, Jake imagines a heart attack as a violent conflict between a heart and weapons. He struggles to understand what it means that Poppy is dead, and his mother patiently attempts to offer words that will make sense. Jake watches the contrary behavior of the adults, who say that it is only Poppy’s body in the casket, but still speak to the burial plot to say farewell. Jake’s questions are true to a child’s perspective, and his mother’s answers are thoughtful; she offers him comfort without absolutes, always prefacing her explanations about what happens after death within the context of her beliefs and being unafraid to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers. The conclusion, where Jake and his mother imagine Poppy’s combine as a constellation, is touching. Meyerson, a reverend, handles the religious aspects lightly, while presenting them from a Christian perspective. Illustrator Searcy’s choice of style appears designed to appeal to young readers, but often the faces are unevenly depicted, making the images off-putting. However, her depictions of Jake’s imagined scenes, drawn in a childlike style rather than painted like the other images, are spot on, and her abstract backgrounds are lovely. The choice of a parchment style background behind the images and the use of a papyrus font are distracting, but ultimately blend into the story and images. Books that address grief are always in need, and Meyerson’s gentle words and child-centered perspective will provide comfort to young readers.  

 

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615567754

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Beth Meyerson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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MORNING GIRL

Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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