BIG JABE

Nolen (In My Momma's Kitchen, 1999) rears up a new tall-tale hero, with the strength of 50 and a hidden agenda. The lad, who floats down the river and into the arms of Simon Plenty’s house slave, Addy, shows early signs of unusual ability, calling fish out of the water until Addy’s wagon is piled high. By that June, young Jabe is a full-grown man, capable of mending ten miles of fence between midday and sundown. Like the pear tree he plants, which grows to full size in one season “with the North Star shining through its branches,” all of the crops on the plantation come in with unprecedented abundance that year. Only the overseer is displeased—even more so when each slave who feels his displeasure disappears with his family in the wake of a strange storm that wipes out any sign of a trail. Addy whispers that Jabe is “taking them to the pear tree,” which is to say pointing them North to freedom. Nelson (Brothers of the Knight, not reviewed) takes Jabe from a rawboned child with an engaging grin to brawny adulthood, placing him into historical scenes that rival Trina Schart Hyman's for fine detail and strongly drawn, expressive figures. In the end, Jabe leaves as suddenly as he came, and is last seen striding away, towering over the trees. Like Virginia Hamilton's Drylongso (1999) and unlike John Henry, Big Jabe seems not just larger than life, but a force of nature, subtle, secret, untouchable—and that undercurrent of mystery gives his story a mythic power. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 30, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-13662-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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