A well-forged adaptation.

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THE VILLAGE BLACKSMITH

A day in the life of a modern-day blacksmith.

The poem begins: “Under a spreading chestnut tree / The village smithy stands.” The illustrations show that a neighbor’s wrought-iron gate is broken, but the “mighty” blacksmith, with arms “strong as iron bands,” is up to the task of fixing it. After he collects scrap metal and drives it back to the smithy, he begins his work. The “bellows blow.” He swings his heavy sledge “with measured beat and slow.” When his three children come home from school, they visit their dad in his smithy. They try to “catch the burning sparks that fly”—from a safe distance, of course. As they attend church on Sunday, where his daughter sings in the choir, the blacksmith is reminded of his late partner. The cycle goes on: “toiling—rejoicing—sorrowing— / onward through life he goes.” With contemporary illustrations that enhance the original source material, Karas forges new life from Longfellow’s 19th-century poem. The textured illustrations deftly utilize cool, desaturated colors, making the reds, oranges, and yellows of the smithy pop. Backmatter explains the tools of the trade and offers a short history of blacksmiths. Dedicated to Karas’ blacksmith son, the book beautifully parallels Longfellow’s own familial inspiration for the original poem. The blacksmith and his family present white; their neighbor has brown skin.

A well-forged adaptation. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0443-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

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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Charming, funny and true to life.

DORY FANTASMAGORY

From the Dory Fantasmagory series , Vol. 1

With words, pictures and pictures with words, 6-year-old Dory, called Rascal, recounts how she finally gets her older brother and sister to play with her.

Rascal’s siblings complain that she’s always pestering them. She acts like a baby, she asks weird questions, and she chatters endlessly with her imaginary monster friend. So they tell her a kidnapping witch, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, is looking for her. In her efforts to avoid capture, Rascal becomes a dog. As a “dog,” she’s invisible to the little-girl–stealer but appealing to her older brother, who, it turns out, always wanted to have a dog. She maintains her dogginess all the way through a doctor’s checkup until a surprise vaccination spurs her to speech and retaliation. Rascal and her invented fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy (he doesn’t look much like a fairy godmother), use the ensuing timeout to concoct poison soup for the witch. Eventually, the witch is vanquished and order more or less restored. Redeemed in the eyes of her siblings because she’s brave enough to retrieve a bouncy ball from the toilet as well as wildly imaginative, Rascal finally gets her wish. Often just on the edge of out of control, this inventive child is irresistible and her voice, convincing. Childlike drawings, often embellished with hand-lettered narrative or speech bubbles, of round-headed humans, Sendak-ian monsters and a snaggle-toothed witch add to the humor.

Charming, funny and true to life. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4088-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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