THE SWEETEST FIG

Marcel has the misfortune of belonging to a totally self- absorbed, repressive, and humorless Parisian dentist—one M. Bibot—who is without compassion for his dog (first seen menaced by a disciplinary newspaper) or his patients: he smirks with sadistic pleasure while extracting a tooth and withholds a painkiller from one sufferer when she offers, in lieu of money, two figs that ``can make your dreams come true.'' Still, when his dream does come true after he eats one fig (it's mortifying—he finds himself in his underwear in the street, while the Eiffel Tower ``droop[s] over as if it were made of soft rubber''), Bibot is filled with greedy anticipation; he's determined to dream a dream that will make him ``the richest man on earth.'' But justice remains poetic. Marcel snitches the other fig, and next morning Bibot discovers just what kind of vengeance the dog has chosen to exact. Children amused by the offbeat tale will probably miss its adult overtones, but Van Allsburg's soft, luminous illustrations, in warm tones of brown refined with deeper grays, should please everyone. His precisely rounded caricature of the dentist is as merciless as the supercilious man himself, while the masterful play of patterns—elegant Parisian stonework glimpsed from a roomful of antiseptic modern furniture, the tower pointing down at the fleeing dentist, the short-legged dog struggling against a taut leash on a polished stair—is delightful. Rather wickedly clever, but fun. (Picture book. 4+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-67346-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1993

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and...

WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO

Inspired by Colombian librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez, Brown’s latest tells of a little girl whose wish comes true when a librarian and two book-laden burros visit her remote village.

Ana loves to read and spends all of her free time either reading alone or to her younger brother. She knows every word of the one book she owns. Although she uses her imagination to create fantastical bedtime tales for her brother, she really wants new books to read. Everything changes when a traveling librarian and his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, arrive in the village. Besides loaning books to the children until his next visit, the unnamed man also reads them stories and teaches the younger children the alphabet. When Ana suggests that someone write a book about the traveling library, he encourages her to complete this task herself. After she reads her library books, Ana writes her own story for the librarian and gives it to him upon his reappearance—and he makes it part of his biblioburro collection. Parra’s colorful folk-style illustrations of acrylics on board bring Ana’s real and imaginary worlds to life. This is a child-centered complement to Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro (2010), which focuses on Soriano.

The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.   (author’s note, glossary of Spanish terms) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-353-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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