A whimsically morose story that is elevated by its illustrations.

THE WOODEN FISH

A sentient wooden post ponders its lonely existence.

Running alongside painted grassy hills topped with white houses and rainbow-hued trees, “there was a great river flowing all year round.…The villagers had planned to build a bridge over the river, but for some strange reason, only one wooden post was ever put up.” Elongated sentences narrate the post’s initial dreams of being surrounded by fellow wooden posts topped with happy children clad in white, with some dancing around with flutes and wings. Sadly, the post wakes up to its fate that a bridge will never be built and grows jealous of the companionship that the stars and trees enjoy nearby. Visits from an egret, a fisherman, and a shepherd boy mitigate the solitude. Yet each happy moment is accompanied by pain, with the egret sharpening its claws on the post, the fisherman singing mournfully, and the shepherd boy throwing stones at the post from the shore. Gong’s textured, moody paintings swirl with movement when a flood snatches up the shepherd boy and he’s carried “away by the strong current!” The post saves the boy and ends up uprooted from its spot, floating to an open-ended fate. Cao’s artful storytelling is compelling and contemplatively paced, but it feels unbalanced with its hyperfocus on the darkness of desolation. Human characters all appear to be Chinese.

A whimsically morose story that is elevated by its illustrations. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-064-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES

            There are many parallel legends – the seal women, for example, with their strange sad longings – but none is more direct than this American Indian story of a girl who is carried away in a horses’ stampede…to ride thenceforth by the side of a beautiful stallion who leads the wild horses.  The girl had always loved horses, and seemed to understand them “in a special way”; a year after her disappearance her people find her riding beside the stallion, calf in tow, and take her home despite his strong resistance.  But she is unhappy and returns to the stallion; after that, a beautiful mare is seen riding always beside him.  Goble tells the story soberly, allowing it to settle, to find its own level.  The illustrations are in the familiar striking Goble style, but softened out here and there with masses of flowers and foliage – suitable perhaps for the switch in subject matter from war to love, but we miss the spanking clean design of Custer’s Last Battle and The Fetterman Fight.          6-7

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1978

ISBN: 0689845049

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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