by Brigitta Schwulst ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 15, 2012
An inconsistent but imaginative, clever tale in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Schwulst’s picture book portrays an African folktale about the tortoise and his shell.
Thomas the tortoise, soft and wrinkled in body, searches for shelter on a “cold, dark and stormy night.” Finding none, he seeks warmth and a nap in the morning on a rock warmed by the sun. Monkeys wake him by chattering about the lion king’s malady, from which he will surely die. Skeptical, Thomas sets out to see for himself. At the king’s camp, Thomas finds Victor the Vulture. Victor confirms the king’s grave illness and says the only cure is for the lion to consume a pile of nuts, but no one can crack them open. Edward the Elephant could do it, but he stubbornly refuses. Kindhearted Thomas gets an idea and waddles off to bring Edward to the camp. As he goes, the monkeys laugh at the idea that a “small squishy tortoise” like Thomas could make Edward do anything. Thomas says that if he does bring Edward back, they all must kneel and must call him, Thomas, king. The monkeys laugh at this joke but say they will do as Thomas asks. Thomas finds Wilma Warthog, who agrees to dig a hole, deep and wide, and fill it with the nuts. Thomas finds Edward and tells him all the animals want him to be king and that they’ve invited him to a feast. Edward immediately booms agreement and scoops Thomas up on his back for the trek to the king’s camp. The monkeys greet them, kneel and yell, “All hail the King.” Edward sticks out his chest, boasting and strutting, until he falls into the hole, where he stomps and stomps until all the nuts are crushed and made into a stew. The stew heals the king, and Thomas wins his protective shell. The story and characters are delightful, but the illustrations are dark and out of harmony with the optimism of Thomas’ tale. Rhyme and rhythm are used erratically, which makes for awkward reading. Confusing punctuation errors appear throughout the text.An inconsistent but imaginative, clever tale in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012
Page Count: 32
Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.
In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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