TOADS AND DIAMONDS

Deft storytelling combines with workmanlike pictures, making this picture book a useful, if not crucial, selection. Huck describes the many sources of this folktale, drawing particularly from Perrault's ``The Fairies.'' In this version, a widow and her natural daughter, Francine, make life miserable for the kind and charitable RenÇe, the woman's stepdaughter. RenÇe's disposition elicits the magical gift of having flowers and jewels cascade from her mouth as she speaks. When the horrid Francine tries for the same, she ends up displaying the results preceded by the quite wonderful line, ``You are not going to like it, Mother,'' as snakes and toads pour from her rude mouth. The language and rhythms are lovely to read aloud; Huck (as she explains in an author's note) attempts to make RenÇe resourceful instead of a stereotypically helpless female, although RenÇe's career goals are confined to a dream, and her destiny is a wedding. The drawings are uneven; the compositions are ordinary; and the people loom largely and then shrink out of proportion. The features of the faces shift from scene to scene, although the glorious stylized vegetation is sure to elicit admiration. (Picture book/folklore. 5+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-688-13680-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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