SCARLETTE BEANE

So joyous is most of this tale from Wallace that it all but subverts the act of magic serving as the climax. Scarlette Beane is a born gardener, not just with a green thumb, but with green fingers as well. She lives in a small home with her parents, “so they worked outside as much as they could.” They are also avid gardeners, too; the days are clear and they are a supremely merry lot. Scarlette is given a garden when she turns five, and proceeds to grow colossal vegetables that have to be individually harvested with machines. Everyone in the village comes to help, and then to eat the soup made from the bounty. They must eat outside because the house is too small, but no one minds such a glorious picnic, even when it rains. That night, Scarlette creeps out of bed to a high meadow and plants a bunch of seeds in a hole. The next day, a castle of vegetables rises from the meadow: “Mrs. Beane kissed her daughter’s face. ‘I knew you’d do something wonderful,’ she whispered.” Since their small house has suited them so beautifully, this ending has the feel of gilding the lily. Thickly painted, expressively modeled artwork adds to the atmosphere of green and growing miracles. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8037-2475-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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NEVER LET YOUR CAT MAKE LUNCH FOR YOU

If the lighthearted title doesn’t grab readers, the spirited illustrations will, as a young girl tells what can happen when a highly anthropomorphized orange cat—a whiz at making breakfast—overreaches and attempts lunch. No pet lover will quibble with a helpful cat or dog, especially one who is good in the kitchen. What can be quibbled with, however, is that the range of the cat’s abilities given in the text is contradicted by the illustrations. Pebbles, the cat, wields a cast iron frying pan with ease, but must spread the peanut butter with her paw “because she can’t hold a knife.” She makes “scrambled eggs and bacon the best,” but displays eggs that are sunny-side up. Onlookers may be so befuddled that they’ll miss the cat’s true culinary sins (anchovy and mouse garnishes) that have resulted in the narrator’s admonishment of the title. It’s a cute book, but a sloppy one. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-883762-80-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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A challenging, unconventional, rewarding imagining of a jazz giant’s final years.

Crepuscule W/ Nellie

The relationships among jazz great Thelonious Monk; his wife, Nellie; and his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter are imagined in Milazzo’s debut novel.

Jazz is known as a musical form without form—improvisation and imagination replace structure and tradition. This novel mimics that concept, using various devices to imagine the relationships among Monk and those closest to him, including de Koenigswarter, who took him in during the last years of his life. In 1976, as his health deteriorated, the pianist came to Weehawken, New Jersey, to live with de Koenigswarter. The novel, like Monk’s work, is unconventional. It doesn’t contain chapters in the traditional sense but rather sections with titles like “Take #32” and “Rolls 1-6 (Negs. 500 – 563; 565 – 569; 572),” which lead into one another like the grooves of a vinyl album. Likewise, the book itself doesn’t include a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, it comprises diary entries, bits of conversation, telephone calls, handbills, and other scraps that either pick up a previous subject or introduce a new one. During his final years, Monk didn’t play the piano nor did he speak much. Similarly here, while he is clearly the sun around whom the others in the group orbit, he is rarely an active presence in his own story. When he does try to play the piano, the author makes clear—via striking, lush writing—that Monk is a diminished star on the verge of burnout: “The moan this Monk makes as he assays the notes again, a low attenuated fuss suggesting pain, arrests no one.” However, there are plenty of other stories to follow, such as Nellie’s ruminations on their life together and the baroness’s observations. Milazzo isn’t attempting historical accuracy so much as imagining a misunderstood life. Like jazz, the book isn’t for everyone, and it requires effort and time to digest and understand. However, also like jazz, the effort brings rewards.

A challenging, unconventional, rewarding imagining of a jazz giant’s final years.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937543600

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Jaded Ibis Press

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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