A heartfelt evocation of the importance of place and family.



A child disgruntled by a drizzly winter day is cheered up by a trip to the pantry.

“Bumping down the stairs [feels] nothing like sledding,” which has Mary out of sorts: The rain in Juneau has melted all the snow. But when she complains to her father about their damp climate, he defends their “homeland” by giving the little girl a tour of their pantry, chock-a-block with the foods they hunted or harvested around Juneau. There’s salmon, of course, both canned and smoked, and deer, along with dried seaweed and blueberries. Each of the foodstuffs comes with a story about how it was obtained, celebrations of family and geography that have Mary convinced that their homeland “is a pretty good place to live” by the end of the book. Though it isn’t explicitly stated, Mary and her father are likely Alaskan Natives, like the author and illustrator Rizal. While the narrative is a long one, pushing the slim book to six short chapters, the warm relationship between Mary and her dad and the exciting adventures Daddy relates should help to keep readers engaged. Rizal’s collages employ Northwest Coast Indian patterns and motifs, and their incorporation into Koch’s mixed-media paintings is the strongest element of the book; black-and-white vertical strips evoke both totem poles and birch trees looming over the autumnal landscape in one striking full-page image.

A heartfelt evocation of the importance of place and family. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60223-232-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Univ. of Alaska

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.


The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...


From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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