Extraordinary women who had incredible adventures often are the subjects for Brown’s (Across a Dark and Wild Sea, p. 101, etc.) biographies and he has found another to celebrate. Alexandra David grew up in 19th-century Paris and had a career as a singer, but she was utterly consumed with wanderlust for Asia and the study of Buddhism. In her 40s, she left her husband, Philip Neel, for a journey; it would be 14 years before she returned. She went to Tibet, studying Tibetan as a hermit for a year, then received permission to study at the monastery in Kum Bum. There, a boy named Yongden became her servant, and later her companion and adopted son. She and Yongden traveled to Lhasa disguised as beggars on a pilgrimage—she darkens her face and hair for the journey—and they conquered snow-filled mountain passes, frozen rivers, and even rode a leather-rope cable over a deep gorge. She was the first Western woman to see Lhasa. An Author’s Note and bibliography offer more information, including that David-Neel died at 101 in 1969, just after having renewed her passport. Even now, children mostly seem to hear about wild adventure as the purview of men and boys: to have Don Brown’s series is a bracing antidote to that misconception. Brown’s signature watercolors are impressionistic, almost calligraphic: a yak looms in the foreground; Alexandra and Yongden are tiny figures in a vast snowy expanse on the “roof of the world”; a colorful tapestry of tiny paper prayer flags surround the trunk of an ancient tree. Alexandra’s words seem to all be taken from her own accounts of her travels. Heady, powerful stuff. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-08364-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002


The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001


Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.

A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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