MOONSHINE

Blackwood goes from Elizabethan England (Shakespeare Stealer, not reviewed, 1998) to a Depression-Era Ozarks setting for this poker-faced tale of a self-reliant but naive teenager. Although he and his mother are dirt poor and he doesn’t remember his father, Thad is an optimist; he has a girl, a loyal bluetick hound, and a good if risky source of income, selling corn liquor for Dayman, a sour, one-armed recluse with a hidden still. He begins to get a glimmer of other lives and possibilities when Harlan James comes to town, claiming to be a land scout for tobacco growers. Harlan is well-dressed, a free spender, and free with his time, too; he allows Thad to use his fancy tackle to land a huge catfish, teaches him how to use a rifle, and even loans him clothes for a date. Blackwood knits characters together with threads of “moonshine”—not liquor, but a steady diet of stories, jokes, yarns, and outright lies’so that the story becomes a study in layers and varieties of honesty. Thad’s feeling of betrayal is sharp but brief when he finds out that Harlan is a revenue agent, stalking Dayman’s still, which literally explodes in his face. Blackwood drops plenty of hints that both Harlan and Dayman are more than they seem, so alert readers are always ahead of Thad, which adds drama; the twin revelations that Dayman is Thad’s father and that Harlan’s friendliness wasn’t all moonshine close this backwoods bildungsroman on a high note. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7614-5056-4

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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THE QUILTMAKER'S GIFT

A sentimental tale overwhelmed by busy illustrations and rampant pedantry. A gifted quiltmaker who makes outstanding quilts never sells her wares, but gives them away to the poor. A greedy king so loves presents that he has two birthdays a year, and commands everyone in the kingdom to give him gifts. Everyone brings presents till the castle overflows; the king, still unhappy, locates the quiltmaker and directs her to make him a quilt. When she refuses he tries to feed her to a hungry bear, then to leave her on a tiny island, but each time the quiltmaker’s kindness results in her rescue. At last, the king agrees to a bargain; he will give away his many things, and the quiltmaker will sew him a quilt. He is soon poor, but happier than he’s ever been, and she fulfills her end of the bargain; they remain partners forever after, with her sewing the quilts and him giving them away. The illustrations are elaborate, filled with clues to quilt names. A note points to the 250 different quilt names hidden in the picture on the inside of the book jacket. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57025-199-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS EXPLORES THE SENSES

The way-off-road vehicle (The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field, 1997, etc.) tours the ears, eyes, nose, and skin when the assistant principal, Mr. Wilde, accidentally shrinks the school bus and the children on board, commandeering it to deliver a message to Ms. Frizzle. The vehicle plunges into the eye of a police officer, where the students explore the pupil, the cornea, the retina, and the optic nerve leading to the brain. Then it’s on to other senses, via the ear of a small child, the nose of a dog, and the tongue of the Friz herself. Sidebars and captions add to the blizzard of information here; with a combination of plot, details, and jokes, the trip is anything but dull. The facts will certainly entice readers to learn more about the ways living creatures perceive the world. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-44697-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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