OWEN AND THE MOUNTAIN

Atmospheric illustrations compensate, at least in part, for pedestrian prose in this metaphor-rich import. On a parent-less visit to Grandad’s isolated cottage, young Owen sees the mountain towering overhead, and wants to climb it. At first, Grandad says he’s too old, and Owen too young; he relents the next day and off they hie up the winding path, followed by a very old dog. Greenfield artfully captures the initial uncertainty on Grandad’s face, then goes on to depict the climbers passing wonderfully gnarled trees, alert wildlife, and a widening green landscape that sometimes itself seems ready to rise on giant feet and follow. In telling the tale, Doyle (Sleepy Pendoodle, see below, etc.) tries for powerful simplicity, but mostly sounds stiff: “Owen looked all around, and he was frightened. He looked down and saw Grandad, trudging up behind him, and he was glad.” After achieving their goal—anticlimactically: “At last, together, they reached the summit of the great mountain”—the two make their way wearily back, and finish the day sharing a cozy armchair before the fireplace. Greenfield’s misty hills may inspire long thoughts, but Doyle is a better storyteller than this effort shows. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7475-5093-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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I WANNA IGUANA

In epistolary dialogue with his mom, a lad yearning for an iguana tries various approaches, from logic and sweet talk to emotional blackmail. His mother puts up a valiant defense—“Dear Mom: Did you know that iguanas are really quiet and they’re cute too. I think they are much cuter than hamsters. Love, your adorable son, Alex.” “Dear Alex: Tarantulas are quiet too”—before ultimately capitulating. Catrow’s scribbly, lurid, purple-and-green illustrations bring the diverse visions of parent and child to hilarious life, as a lizard of decidedly indeterminate ancestry grows in stages to the size of a horse, all the while exhibiting a doglike affection toward its balloon-headed prospective keeper—who is last seen posed by a new terrarium, pumping a fist in victory. A familiar domestic interchange, played out with broad comedy—and mutual respect, too. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23717-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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