JABBERWOCKY

It would be hard not to end up with an outstanding result when starting with such brilliant material as Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” but Stewart’s mixed-media illustrations suit the wry humor of this nonsense poem so perfectly it’s hard to imagine it being interpreted as well by anyone else since Tenniel himself. The wide, thin-lipped visage of the Jabberwock is particularly reminiscent of Tenniel’s drawings and provides a tribute to the definitive illustrator of Carroll’s work. But there are many original touches, such as the clockwork inner workings of the beast and the imagining of what exactly things like “slithy toves,” “borogoves,” and “mome raths” are (here, various imaginary forest denizens, some of them birdlike, who relax in hammocks and play accordions). The dusky palette of tan, olive, dusty purple, pale blue, and brick red outlined in thin brown lends an antique feel, as does the pseudo-medieval costume worn by the boy as he hunts the “maxnome foe.” Far from being frightening, the Jabberwock is positively dapper in his top hat and high, stiff collar, and the fact that his insides are mechanical keeps his dismemberment from being gory. It’s helpful that the poem is printed in its entirety at the beginning, so readers and listeners can get their own imaginations started before digging in. This brilliantly original, yet respectful new rendering of an old favorite reminds those who’ve read it before of the infinite possibilities and pure fun in its interpretation, and will bring its delightful nonsense to a whole new audience. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7636-2018-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it...

FEAR THE BUNNY

A tiger can’t believe it’s being upstaged in this picture-book riff on William Blake’s famous poem.

A group of zoologically diverse animals huddle around a fire, listening to a porcupine read from a chilling poem: “Bunnies, bunnies, burning bright, / in the forests of the night—.” An incredulous tiger interrupts, saying that the poem is actually about it. But a squirrel matter-of-factly states that “Here, it’s ‘bunnies, bunnies.’ ” The tiger still doesn’t understand why the animals would be so afraid of bunnies but not afraid of tigers and tries to explain why it, an apex predator, is far more threatening. The smaller animals remain unimpressed, calmly telling the tiger that “In this forest, we fear the bunny” and that it should “Hide now, before it’s too late.” An amusing and well-done premise slightly disappoints at the climax, with the tiger streaking away in terror before a horde of headlamp-wearing bunnies, but eager readers never learn what, exactly, the bunnies would do if they caught up. But at the end, a group of tigers joins the other animals in their awestruck reading of the adapted Blake poem, included in full at the end. Cute, fuzzy illustrations contrast nicely with the dark tone and forest background.

A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it overcomes a weak conclusion. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7800-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it.

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I TALK LIKE A RIVER

A young boy describes how it feels to stutter and how his father’s words see him through “bad speech day[s].”

Lyrical, painfully acute language and absorbing, atmospheric illustrations capture, with startling clarity, this school-age child’s daily struggle with speech. Free verse emulates the pauses of interrupted speech while slowing down the reading, allowing the words to settle. When coupled with powerful metaphors, the effect is gut-wrenching: “The P / in pine tree / grows roots / inside my mouth / and tangles / my tongue.” Dappled paintings inspire empathy as well, with amorphous scenes infused with the uncertainty that defines both the boy’s unpredictable speech and his melancholy. Specificity arrives in the artwork solely at the river, where boy and father go after a particularly bad morning. Scenery comes into focus, and readers feel the boy’s relief in this refuge where he can breathe deeply, be quiet, and think clearly. At this extraordinary book’s center, a double gatefold shows the child wading in shimmering waters, his back to readers, his face toward sunlight. His father pulls his son close and muses that the boy “talk[s] like a river,” choppy in places, churning in others, and smooth beyond.  (Father and son both appear White.) Young readers will turn this complex idea over in their minds again and again. The author includes a moving autobiographical essay prompting readers to think even further about speech, sounds, communication, self-esteem, and sympathy.

An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4559-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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