A BOOK FOR BLACK-EYED SUSAN

From the Tales of Young Americans series

This is a story of heartbreak and resolve, of the punishing tribulations that were once part and parcel of the frontier experience. Caught by Ettlinger in washed-out artwork that is almost biblically sweet and demure, 10-year-old Cora wakes to a new day on the Oregon Trail and learns that her mother has just died giving birth. Time to mark her grief is brief; all too soon the grave marker dwindles into the horizon as Cora, her father and the newborn—named Susan by Cora, for her black eyes—must move on. Then comes a second wrench, when Susan and Cora are separated, as it is not feasible for her and her father alone to look after Susan. But Cora has made for her a book of quilted-cloth pages, the tale of their family’s life told through fabric scraps found in their mother’s sewing box. This is by no means small emotional potatoes, with loved ones disappearing right and left as if there was no gravity. Young’s telling is raw but tempered by an oblique approach to the cruelest moments and softened by a lovely chance encounter years later, the type of encounter that would only happen if one took the time and effort to fashion a book from the scraps of a life with little comfort and fewer promises. (Picture book. 6-10)

 

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-463-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more