It is dawn on a day of street parties, and children are donning minimalist costumes (an underwater mask for a deep-sea diver, a cowboy hat to evoke a cowboy) so that “even those who love us must guess our identities.” Of course the children aren’t truly disguised: “I know you, Mardi Gras,” one friend calls from the sidewalk. By the fifth spread, readers understand that this is more than a children’s party; “Mardi Gras Indians live in our neighborhood,” and each emerges from “the door blinds of his small house like a spring flower opening.” Five of the double-page oil paintings are given over to actual parade scenes; the rest of the book features more domestic scenes of children in their homes and backyards during the long Mardi Gras day. The story is poetic, but puzzling to children new to the subject: Where is the story taking place? What are “Mardi Gras Indians,” and how to makes sense of the statement “A parade named Zulu will pass”? In read-aloud sessions, cover the author’s note in the back first, for a more succinct introduction to some of the customs of the New Orleans parade. Shaik’s narrative is deliberately child-centered, offering an insider’s view of the day but not quite succeeding in beckoning newcomers to it. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-1442-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999


Miranda’s book counts the monsters gathering at a birthday party, while a simple rhyming text keeps the tally and surveys the action: “Seven starved monsters are licking the dishes./Eight blow out candles and make birthday wishes.” The counting proceeds to ten, then by tens to fifty, then gradually returns to one, which makes the monster’s mother, a purple pin-headed octopus, very happy. The book is surprisingly effective due to Powell’s artwork; the color has texture and density, as if it were poured onto the page, but the real attention-getter is the singularity of every monster attendee. They are highly individual and, therefore, eminently countable. As the numbers start crawling upward, it is both fun and a challenge to try to recognize monsters who have appeared in previous pages, or to attempt to stay focused when counting the swirling or bunched creatures. The story has glints of humor, and in combination with the illustrations is a grand addition to the counting shelf. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201835-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999


In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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