Pilkey (The Paperboy, p. 141, etc.) joins the medieval fray with a bucolic approach to the journey of gargoyles from the cathedrals of the Middle Ages to modern cityscapes. The half-comic, half-grotesque, goblin-like animals and monsters from medieval religious art, once representing evil and temptation from a dragon-infested underworld, here become contemporary symbols of the misunderstood, in contrast to the spooky black-and-white gargoyles in Eve Bunting and David Wiesner's Night of the Gargoyles (1994). In rhyming pairs of couplets, Pilkey tells of the lonely, the lost, the left behind, all in lowercase type: ``god bless the ones who sing everything wrong/god bless the ones who do not belong.'' Blue angels rescue shadowy gargoyles and wing their way amidst cathedrals and stained glass windows, above skyscrapers, across a deep blue-and-purple night. Pilkey infuses his skies with much of the same fantasy inventiveness as Chagall; however, the solitary spread that pinpoints a specific setting creates for readers a visual pun of sorts—gargoyles hover as witnesses to angels who land in the well-known Edward Hopper painting of a diner, Night Hawks. Perhaps the quintessential American image of loneliness and isolation, the scene proves ``that the souls of the lost weren't really alone.'' The constrained cadences are more statement than story, weighing down the lilting paintings with their hopeful but heavy message. Still, readers will find solace in this modern-day answer to existentialism. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200248-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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Haunting and beautiful.


As the sun sets and the moon rises, an unnamed young child says good night to everything in the natural landscape.

In the simple, brief, descriptive text the child calls out, “Lilah Tov,” to hens and roosters, bears and bats, beaches and waves, clouds and stars, fish and birds, mountains and streams. There is no other narrative, at least not in words. Naggan’s lush, detailed, soft-edged landscapes provide another, deeper, and more nuanced level to the proceedings. “Lilah tov” means “good night” in Hebrew, and there is a menorah on the windowsill, indicating that this family is Jewish. By dress and household appearance, they seem to be living in the late 19th or early 20th century. After a simple meal, they pack their belongings and leave their small rural home. The protagonist is saying good night to the creatures and places spotted on what readers will see as a lengthy journey. Beneath a full moon a man rows them across a body of water, and the journey continues on the other side. At the end of their travels there is a new home awaiting them. They travel quietly and surreptitiously, but there is no explanation within the text of where they are and why they leave. Are they refugees escaping something dreadful? Each young reader will interpret the work differently depending on individual understanding and knowledge of history, or perhaps with a wise adult to help.

Haunting and beautiful. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4066-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A wondrous occurrence, an ancient tradition, and an elderly nun’s abiding faith are the basis of this moving Chirstmas tale from dePaola (26 Fairmount Avenue, p. 629, etc.). Sister Angie is overjoyed when her niece Lupe and her husband are selected to play Mary and Joseph—here, Maria and José—for Las Posadas, the reenactment of the journey into Bethlehem. When Sister Angie becomes ill and Lupe and Roberto become stranded in a heavy snowstorm, it seems as if the celebration will be delayed. However, a couple arrives just in time to take the place of the missing players. The whole village participates in the procession, from the singers who follow Mary and Joseph, to the “devils” who attempt to prevent the weary travelers from finding lodging. After several rebuffs, the couple arrives at the gates of the courtyard; these open and the entire assembly enters to celebrate. When Lupe and Roberto finally show up, the other couple is nowhere to be found. The story takes a supernatural twist when Sister Angie discovers that the figures in the church’s manger scene have come to life, temporarily, for the procession. The mysteries and miracles of the season are kept at bay; this simple narrative spells everything out, resulting in a primer on the tradition. Richly hued, luminescent illustrations radiate from the pages; an introduction and author’s note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23400-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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