FIDDLIN' SAM

In a family memoir of the most affecting kind, readers are invited to a long-ago time in the Ozark Mountains and the story of a musician who owned “the clothes on his back and a fine old lionhead fiddle.” Fiddlin’ Sam is the inheritor of the peripatetic, minstrel’s life of his father, who taught Sam his art, saying, “This ain’t a gift, Son. It’s a loan. You gotta pass the music along.” Sam accepts the food that appreciative people give him, but politely refuses their offer of a bed. When a rattler bites him, Sam fears he has failed his calling; the music will die with him. In the feverish time that follows, someone takes care of him, a young man whom Sam hopes will take up the gift and carry it along—but the boy has other plans. In the years that follow, Sam meets another young man on the road who reminds him of the first one, and, indeed, is his son. Their path together lasts long enough for Sam to pass along his gift and its joys and burdens before he dies. An endpiece dedication allows readers to glimpse aspects of the story that are based in truth. A rhythmic refrain underscores the emotions of the story, and even acts as the vehicle of the ascension of Sam’s soul at death. Gerig’s watercolors deliver the scenic beauty of the region and carry their own version of a familial tribute. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-87358-742-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rising Moon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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SNOW BEAR

In this sweetly sentimental story set in the frozen twilight of an Arctic spring, George (Morning, Noon, and Night, p. 699, etc.) tells of an Inuit girl who goes out to hunt. Bessie Nivyek sets out with her big brother, Vincent, to hunt for food; in a twist out of McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, Bessie bumps into a young bear, and they frolic: climbing, sliding, somersaulting, and cuddling. Vincent spies the tracks of his little sister and follows, wary of the mother bear; the mother bear is just as wary of Vincent. Out of the water rears danger to both the child and cub—a huge male polar bear. The mother bear warns her cub; it runs away, as does Bessie. Brother and sister head back home, “to eat, go to school, and learn the wisdom of the Arctic like Eskimo children do.” The brief text is lyrical and the illustrations are striking, with an impressively varied palette of white, in blue, green, yellow, and gold. Children who note that Vincent goes home empty-handed will wonder why he didn’t hunt any of the polar bears that were within range. While children will enjoy this romantic view of Bessie and the bear, those seeking a more realistic representation of life in this harsh environment will be unsatisfied. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-0456-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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DIRT ON THEIR SKIRTS

THE STORY OF THE YOUNG WOMEN WHO WON THE WORLD OF CHAMPIONSHIP

During WWII, as men went overseas, women assumed many of their jobs; Rappaport and Callan enthusiastically invent a fictional witness to that historical moment when baseball, too, was taken over by women. Two teams from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the Rockford Peaches and the Racine Belles, are vying for the 1946 championship. It’s the bottom of the 14th and the score is 0-0. In the stands, Margaret’s father, having just returned from fighting overseas, has joined his family for this final game of the season. As the last inning unfolds, Margaret, shouting and cheering, can hardly wait until she’s old enough to join this group of talented women. While the Belles joyously celebrate their victory on the field, Margaret proudly recalls her mother’s words, “You do have to be tough to play baseball in a skirt.” The text benefits from Lewis’s full-page watercolors, which range from the antic and expressive to exquisitely solemn with tension. Curiously missing from the historical notes is any reference to the popular film, A League of Their Own, which first revived interest in the league. That doesn’t detract from a book that reminds readers not to restrict their dreams on the basis of gender. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8037-2042-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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