A warmhearted, encouraging book about the wonders of imagination.

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THE PHANTASTIC ZOO

In this illustrated book for children, a brother and sister discover a special exhibit of magical beasts.

Mary and her little brother, Tim, are excited about their school’s field trip to the zoo. For the first time since their parents died, Tim is smiling; he’s hoping to see a dragon, although a friend informs him that dragons are only giant alligators. But alligators are interesting too, and Mary promises her sibling that he’ll see some. Then they find that the alligator tank is closed for repairs. Tim cries, but just then, a tall, strangely dressed man appears and introduces himself as Zitthoona, a magus and Keeper of the Phantastic Zoo. “Would you like to see a Dragon, Tim?” he asks. Playing his flute, the Keeper leads the kids through a hidden entrance. Giant plants, music, colors, and mysterious sensations surround them as they meet first a phoenix, then a mermaid, and then—most thrilling of all—an actual dragon. Each creature has a story to tell and a message for the kids about music, imagination, and protecting the environment. Back at home with their aunt Peggy, the children find a tree that becomes their special place to listen to “music magic.” The text urges readers to email the author for a coupon to download an accompanying digital audio album. Kaufman (The Adventures of Squiggle T. Buglet in the Musical Forest, 2014, etc.) gives children a fantastical experience with his collection of magical creatures who live in a place that’s more like a hotel than a zoo, the Keeper explains. The author presents it all in heightened language that helps build a sense of awe: “The air turned hot and cold as you walked…and in the darkness you could sense ancient powers…and things it was impossible for Mary and Tim to put words to.” The siblings’ affection for each other is sweetly depicted, as well. Kaufman’s faux naïve illustrations have the colorful, flat feeling of pale Matisse paintings, emphasizing the narrative’s air of strange adventure. However, the book’s punctuation becomes distracting with its many ellipses and exclamation points, random capitalization, and sometimes-missing commas.

A warmhearted, encouraging book about the wonders of imagination.

Pub Date: April 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9862098-4-0

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Three Dashes Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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ON THE NIGHT YOU WERE BORN

A beautiful tribute to the uniqueness of every child: “On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.’ ” The wind and the rain whispered the new babe’s name, causing animals all over the world to rejoice. And if ever that child thinks that he is unloved, all he need do is listen to the wind and look around at nature—they will remind him of just how special and loved he is. New parents and grandparents will get teary as they celebrate with the author the wonder and marvel that is their newborn baby, while young listeners will be thrilled at being the center of creation’s attention. Neither group will notice the uneven rhyme scheme employed in the text or the failure of the author to carry through in encouraging parent and child to interact. The focus will be on the paint-and-collage illustrations, rich in color and incorporating words from the text. Perfect for lap sharing with a beloved little one. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-9765761-0-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Darling Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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