JOHN BROWN

ONE MAN AGAINST SLAVERY

It takes searching through three notes—by the chief historian at Harper's Ferry, a curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts (which owns the art), and the editor—plus what seem to be the 1941 paintings' original titles (listed in the back; year given only in jacket copy) to piece together the bases of this powerful presentation. Lawrence, a fine artist, is best known in children's books for his illustrations for Harriet and the Promised Land (1968). The 16 gouaches here (from a series of 22 on Brown) are captivating—stark compositions with flat areas of earth tones and weighty black, featuring the fanatical abolitionist, the slaves he planned to free, and a dramatic, dour landscape. But Everett's text is somewhat problematic. In her fine Li'l Sis and Uncle Willie (1992), a child who knew the artist narrates; here, Brown's daughter Annie—admiring yet clear-eyed—shares reservations about his violent tactics (``Father could choose to use the pen to fight slavery''). Everett sets herself a difficult task: a narrator who fully subscribed to Brown's fiercely quixotic plans could not perceive their danger so clearly. The Annie that Everett depicts (she cites no sources for her characterization) doesn't quite convey the extraordinary passion of the man who believed that ``the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood'': Lawrence's splendid art, here published in color for the first time, speaks with far more power. Still, the inexorable events described in her quiet narrative are compelling, firmly supporting her theme: ``One man against slavery did make a difference.'' (Nonfiction. 8+)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8478-1702-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rizzoli

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1993

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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