A kids’ book that adults, and especially fans of the Grateful Dead, will be able to valuably share with the youngsters in...

Ava's Grateful Bears

A box of Grateful Dead bear dolls brings a grandfather and granddaughter closer in this retelling of a true family story by debut author Bratt and debut artist High.

Four-year-old Ava’s grandfather wants to give her a surprise for Christmas. He spent a year collecting 100 colorful, cuddly Grateful Dead bears (which were inspired by one of the group’s album-cover illustrations), each one different. Just before the holiday, he puts them in a huge box under the tree. Ava loves them immediately, and she and her grandfather bond over learning the names and colors of the friendly dolls. The bears themselves are grateful to have such a wonderful home with a girl who loves them so much. Even as Ava gets older, and the bears spend more time in a basket and less time on display, she remembers each of their names and loves them. But after the family cat acts out by spraying Ava’s bears instead of using his litter box, the girl’s mother kicks them out of the house. The bears are terrified but still glad to be with one another: “Ava’s Grateful Bears had an amazing gift / of always finding something to be grateful for.” After a long, cold winter of living outside, Ava’s grandfather attempts to rescue them, and although it takes time, he succeeds in restoring them. Ava can again share her love of the (now-clean) bears with her friends. That Christmas, Ava and her grandfather tie ribbons to each bear and decorate the tree with them. The book’s plot sometimes stumbles, due to sticking close to true events, and the bears’ thoughts are only intermittently revealed. But the overall story of the bears’ journey is delightful, and the love between Ava and her grandfather is touching. High’s illustrations capture the joy of the Grateful Bears and feature their unique colors and patterns; some images are filled to the brim with bears in the background. It would have been nice if Bratt had better explained why the dolls are called Grateful Dead bears, but his emphasis on keeping a grateful heart and attitude comes through clearly.

A kids’ book that adults, and especially fans of the Grateful Dead, will be able to valuably share with the youngsters in their lives.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9909981-0-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tacksam Hus Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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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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