Mateo, a young boy who lives in the southern Mexican village of Monte Alban, learns to carve traditional wooden toys (juguetes) at his father’s side. But he is haunted by visions of larger and more colorful animals. When he tells his father of his desire to carve those he imagines, his father discourages him: “Stop these foolish dreams. We have work to do.” But Mateo does not give up—although his first efforts are disappointing. Eventually he succeeds in carving a magnificent quetzal, followed by an amazing array of large, colorful animals in active poses. Cordova’s bright, acrylic illustrations on gessoed ground lovingly portray Mateo, his family, his village, and the amazing wooden animals, splashed with polka dots and intricate designs. Spanish words are interspersed throughout the story; although their meanings are clear from the context, a pronunciation guide would have been helpful. Shepard Barbash provides an endnote on Oaxacan wood carving and the work of Manuel Jiménez, who inspired this story. The message, clearly stated at the outset with a quotation from Goethe—“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”—may exceed the grasp of the children for whom the book is intended, but Cordova’s depictions of Mateo’s animals may win them over. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8118-1244-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002


A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996


Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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