THE OWL WHO WAS AFRAID OF THE DARK

New color illustrations introduce an English classic about a small barn owl—unfortunately and inexplicably named “Plop”—who learns to love the dark. At his mother’s suggestion, Plop, who thinks the dark is scary, asks various people about it. Each (among them a boy, a scout, and an astronomer) gives him a personal reason for appreciating the night. At last, a black cat leads him away from his sleeping parents to the rooftops where, looking over the sleeping town, Plop realizes that the night really is beautiful, and that he really is a night bird. The full-page pastel illustrations are full of rich night hues of deep blue skies, light, and shadow, and smaller sketches on alternate pages show the little owl with his new acquaintances. Plop, though a fledged bird, appears smaller and softer than his owl parents and is a thoroughly endearing creature in these pictures, and the art carries the story over several weak spots. In one of Plop’s less convincing encounters, a grandmotherly woman tells him that she likes the dark because it is kind, and she can forget that she is old—an idea more sentimental than true. In another—less universal than the fear of the dark that the tale addresses—a girl tells him that the dark is necessary so that Santa can come and fill the stockings for Christmas Day. But the fireworks that the boy invites Plop to watch are reflected in the big dark eyes of the young barn owl and his parents—a nicely dramatic depiction of the awe that night can hold. Parents and children are likely to overlook some pedestrian moments in the story for the overall reassurance it may bring. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-1562-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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THE BEST CHEF IN SECOND GRADE

An impending school visit by a celebrity chef sends budding cook Ollie into a tailspin. He and his classmates are supposed to bring a favorite family food for show and tell, but his family doesn’t have a clear choice—besides, his little sister Rosy doesn’t like much of anything. What to do? As in their previous two visits to Room 75, Kenah builds suspense while keeping the tone light, and Carter adds both bright notes of color and familiar home and school settings in her cartoon illustrations. Eventually, Ollie winkles favorite ingredients out of his clan, which he combines into a mac-and-cheese casserole with a face on top that draws delighted praise from the class’s renowned guest. As Ollie seems to do his kitchen work without parental assistance, a cautionary tip or two (and maybe a recipe) might not have gone amiss here, but the episode’s mouthwatering climax and resolution will guarantee smiles of contentment all around. (Easy reader. 6-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-053561-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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