THE DAY THE WHALE CAME

When a train pulls into town carting a dead whale, the citizens of Johnstown, Illinois—one in a Model A—eagerly hand over their buffalo-head nickels and dimes to Captain Pinkney for a chance to view the dead behemoth. Tommy, who has read about whales, is nauseated by the spectacle, particularly when it turns out the whale is rotting and smelly. His friend, Ben, wants to cut off a hunk of the whale as a souvenir, intentions that spell the end of his and Tommy’s friendship. As the train is about to depart, the engine breaks down, and Captain Pinkney asks for the townspeople’s help in burying the smelly carcass. Tommy feels somewhat better about putting the whale to rest, but it isn’t until the following spring, when wild flowers flourish over the whale’s grave, that Tommy believes that its death is appeased. The language Bunting (December, 1997, etc.) uses is clear as ever, and the analogy of the story, that standing up for what you believe in is the same as sticking up for yourself, rings true. It’s just such an odd story, set in turn-of-the-century America, and made more peculiar by Menchin’s collage artwork (which, significantly, gives the dead whale a human eye). That a child would be sensitive to the whale’s plight may prove a timeless notion, but it feels more 1998 than 1920, the date on a nickel viewed close up. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201456-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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MERCY WATSON TO THE RESCUE

Hilarity and hijinks abound in this tale about a voracious swine with an overweening yen for hot buttered toast. Mercy is the beloved pet pig of the doting Mr. and Mrs. Watson. When Mercy sneaks into her owner’s bed one night, her added heft causes the bed to fall partway through the ceiling. Although the besotted Watsons assume Mercy is trotting off to seek help, the only search and rescue Mercy seems to care about involves butter and hot bread. In her quest for some midnight munchies, Mercy awakens the crotchety neighbor. Wild chases and mayhem ensue before help arrives in the guise of firefighters. DiCamillo aims for over-the-top fun with her tale of porcine shenanigans, and Van Dusen’s gouache illustrations provide a comical counterpart to the text. The glossy paintings, with exaggerated caricatures and lively colors, complement DiCamillo’s tone, although the scowling, lantern-jawed visage of the crabby neighbor borders on the unpleasant. With vocabulary that may prove too challenging for a novice, DiCamillo’s tale is best suited for those ready to move up. However, the pacing and the action easily make it right for shared reading. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7636-2270-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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