THE MAGIC HORSE OF HAN GAN

Hong illustrates this new, if familiarly premised, legend about a historical Tang Dynasty artist with big, splendidly accomplished paintings, brushed on brown silk in a traditional style. Little Han Gan is too poor to afford brushes and paper, but such is his talent that even a drawing in the dirt earns him the support of renowned painter Wang Wei. This is followed by admission to an academy and wide fame for painting horses so spirited that they are said to come to life. One night, a literal-minded warrior comes to beg for a steed, and Han Gan actually creates one that springs off the paper. After many battles, though, the horse tires of the blood and death, and so Han Gan wakes one day to find that a sixth has joined the five horses he painted the day before. The youthful but dignified painter, the glowering warrior and especially the succession of muscular, proud, subtly hued horses will have a powerful impact on young audiences. Shelve this plainly told tale next to such similar tales of artistic transformations as Elizabeth Partridge’s Kogi’s Mysterious Journey (2003), Margaret Leaf’s Eyes of the Dragon (1987) or the various renditions of “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” (author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59270-063-2

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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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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LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE

When Bibi, her first and favorite babysitter, moves away, it takes all of August for 8-year-old Eleanor to get beyond her sense of loss and get used to a new caretaker. Her parents grieve, too; her mother even takes some time off work. But, as is inevitable in a two-income family, eventually a new sitter appears. Natalie is sensible and understanding. They find new activities to do together, including setting up a lemonade stand outside Eleanor’s Brooklyn apartment building, waiting for Val, the mail carrier, and taking pictures of flowers with Natalie’s camera. Gradually Eleanor adjusts, September comes, her new teacher writes a welcoming letter, her best friend returns from summer vacation and third grade starts smoothly. Best of all, Val brings a loving letter from Bibi in Florida. While the story is relatively lengthy, each chapter is a self-contained episode, written simply and presented in short lines, accessible to those still struggling with the printed word. Cordell’s gray-scale line drawings reflect the action and help break up the text on almost every page. This first novel is a promising debut. Eleanor’s concerns, not only about her babysitter, but also about playmates, friends and a new school year will be familiar to readers, who will look forward to hearing more about her life. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8424-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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