A touching fable that speaks to readers of all ages.

The Tale of Nottingswood

A “humdumly Sister and hohumly Brother” are unlikely heroes in Young’s debut work of middle-grade fantasy.

The siblings live in the walled town of Nottingswood, a dreary place with no color or happiness. It’s an ordered society that protects its townsfolk from emotions such as love, fear or sadness. The long-ago Guardian of the town has been banished, and the Judge has ordered the construction of a Great Wall to block out the sun. The unexpected appearance of a small, unknown creature threatens Nottingswood’s regimented existence. Only Brother and Sister refuse to leave the creature to die. They sneak it home—away from the prying eyes of the town and the Order of Voices and the Judge—and manage to care for it. Perhaps anticipating confusion, the creature comes equipped with a magic plaque that spells out its needs—“I’m hungry. Feed me.” To secure food, they must steal beyond the walls of Nottingswood, into the terrifying wide world where a mythical beast is rumored to live. They discover there is no beast but a world of beauty and color. Something happened in Nottingswood that resulted in the town’s grim existence, when “folk[s] heeded the shadows instead of the light.” Now Brother and Sister find themselves on a path of inadvertent rebellion. Young’s whimsical narrative is superb. He spins a fairy tale written almost exclusively in verse that flows beautifully throughout his short tale. It’s a joy to watch the transformation of Brother and Sister from proper citizens to enlightened dissenters. The fairy-tale elements, such as magical creatures and an enchanted cloak, will appeal to a young audience, while the underlying moral questions of good and evil, the privilege of free will and the value of taking risks will intrigue readers of all ages. Grace’s cleverly drawn illustrations vivify the adventure, and those of the evil Ms. Grouse are particularly fun. While Young’s work feels inspired by Dr. Seuss and C.S. Lewis, he creates a story that is uniquely his own.

A touching fable that speaks to readers of all ages.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0971942370

Page Count: 78

Publisher: Pond Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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