THE WOODEN DRAGON

An odd little posthumous tale from Aiken (see above). A brother and sister, Handle and Window, live in a house in a hollow, surrounded by trees. When the leaves fall in autumn, they bury the house up to its bedroom windows. But Handle sweeps them up and makes a big bonfire. Window cannot help him, as she is lame, but she tells stories to him and to the townsfolk who come to listen, “and often they were cured of their sickness or their sadness or their worry.” But Handle is a sailor, and must go to sea, leaving a little carved wooden dragon for his sister. Window obsesses over the leaves that will fall the next autumn—what if Handle isn’t home by then? And sure enough, the house is buried under leaves the next year. The terrified Window dreams that the forgotten wooden dragon will save her. She awakens, dusts him off, and discovers he loves to eat—leaves! The colors are luminous and the figures ethereal in Willey’s double-paged full-bleed images, although the dragon doesn’t seem quite like the text description. The whole has the feeling of references so intimate that they don’t entirely cohere for an outside audience, but children may be seduced by the radiant color and quirky characterizations. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-224-06480-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Jonathan Cape/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.

MAGIC CANDIES

A child finds connection to the world all around in this Korean import.

The illustrations in this unusual picture book achieve a 3-D effect reminiscent of claymation. The opening scene shows an aerial view of a playground scattered with maple and gingko leaves; a tethered dog watches a child aiming at marbles. Accustomed to spending time alone and solitary play, Tong Tong’s fertile imagination infuses a bag of assorted spherical hard candies with powers that give voice to unlikely speakers, such as the living room sofa and Marbles the old dog, each speaking with Tong Tong to share a sentient perspective. The hard candies also channel the tough love hidden within Tong Tong’s father and Grandma’s bubbly, reassuring voice emanating from another realm. The candies’ magic reveals yet another dimension when Tong Tong is drawn outdoors to witness nature’s beauty as copious falling leaves bid farewell to the season. Through these uncanny exchanges, Tong Tong not only makes surprising discoveries, but also delves into complex emotions, celebrates a continuing relationship with Grandma, and takes courageous steps toward a tantalizing conclusion. The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective, featuring details some may find initially unsettling—along with the cryptic, open-ended narrative. That said, depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder.

An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2959-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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