THE SNOW BEAR

Narrative gaps and credibility issues hamper this tale of companionship between a young Canadian and a polar bear. When a mother bear whose cubs have been killed by hunters is spotted foraging in the town dump, Bruun’s father explains that she’ll be locked in “bear jail” until she’s hungry enough to make tracks back to the wild. Bruun not only slips food through the bars of her cage, but when she’s released, he follows her out onto the ice, where she teaches him how to live as a bear. Feeding on seals together, they stay out until spring, whereupon the protective bear leads Bruun back to town. Years later, they are reunited, and this time it’s Bruun who cares for the old bear, until she dies. Stafford models her unnamed locale on a Manitoba town that really does have a “bear jail,” but Davis (Baby Whales Drink Milk, 1994, etc.) is more concerned with capturing Arctic light falling on snowy landscapes and tidy, cleanly drawn figures than with filling in details left out of the spare narrative. Neither explains how the bear is captured, how Bruun, without visible supplies or even a knife, is supposed to eat the whole seal the polar bear brings him, or why after weeks of roughing it, his mittens and parka are still pristine. If the appended explanatory note, which is longer than the story itself, doesn’t leave readers cold, the lack of visual verisimilitude certainly will. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-26977-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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THE COOKIE-STORE CAT

There is an ineffable sweetness in Rylant’s work, which skirts the edge of sentimentality but rarely tumbles, saved by her simple artistry. This companion piece to The Bookshop Dog (1996) relates how the cookie-store cat was found, a tiny, skinny kitten, very early one day as the bakers came in to work. The cat gets morning kisses, when the bakers tell him that he is “sweeter than any cookie” and “prettier than marzipan.” Then he makes his rounds, out the screen door painted with “cherry drops and gingerbread men” to visit the fish-shop owner, the yarn lady, and the bookshop, where Martha Jane makes a cameo appearance. Back at the cookie store, the cat listens to Father Eugene, who eats his three Scotch chewies and tells about the new baby in the parish, and sits with the children and their bags of cookies. At Christmas he wears a bell and a red ribbon, and all the children get free Santa cookies. The cheerful illustrations are done in paint as thick as frosting; the flattened shapes and figures are a bit cookie-shaped themselves. A few recipes are included in this yummy, comforting book. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-54329-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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