THE PERFUME OF MEMORY

A pretty and pleasing picture book in an unusual tall format, with a piquant story redolent of faraway places. Long ago in a place that has the look of North Africa, a perfume maker lives with his daughter. Girls aren’t supposed to make perfume—the result of an unfortunate historical blunder involving a girl, essence of skunk, and the Royal Advisor—but Yasmin does, and enters the perfume contest for the queen’s birthday. The queen is taken, however, by the “perfume of Forgetfulness,” and forgets who she is. Yasmin brings her back by offering her the scents of memory: the Casablanca lily from her parents’ home; the oils of myrrh and eucalyptus that anointed her when she became queen. The pages are lemon colored; the illustrations, with their echoes of Moorish decoration, are in golden-washed color enlivened by black-and-white sketches, in the manner of medieval drolleries, that reflect and augment the main images. Yasmin gets her wish, that a Royal Storyteller be named so no one would forget ever again, and the position goes to the Royal Advisor, imprisoned for his making of the perfume of Forgetfulness; “the first thing he wrote down was this story.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-08206-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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CLICKETY CLACK

A train load of wild and wacky animals gets so noisy that the engineer has to shout to get them to quiet down. The little black train picks up yaks, acrobats, a troupe of ducks, and stomping elephants as passengers. But when two mice that are in to fireworks climb aboard, the engineer threatens to stop the whole train. “ ‘Keep it down!’ yells Driver Zach. ‘You’re giving me a headache attack!’ “ Everyone quickly hushes up, and soon, “the only sound you hear, in fact,/is the sound of the wheels on the railroad track. Clickety clack, clickety clack.” The words bounce along to the rhythm of a train on its way, and the swell of the sound effects makes this a joy to read aloud. Spengler’s robust illustrations capture an antic cast of passengers, conveying the action as much through composition as color. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-87946-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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HOW MANY CANDLES?

PLB 0-688-16259-2 Time is relative, as Griffith’s pleasingly droll story makes clear, especially when a cat, a dog, a turtle, and a couple gnats get together to compare longevity. The dog, Alex, has made a cake for his friend, Robbie, a boy turning ten who never appears in these pages. A cat notes that Robbie’s years equal about 70 of hers, while a turtle figures that the same number equals about 8 of his years, because he can live to be 100. Two gnats buzz in to check on the doings, and they can’t even begin to comprehend the very notion of ten years—“ ‘Well, they’re gnats,’ said the cat. ‘Ten years to a boy is one billion years to a gnat.’ “ As Alex tries to determine how many candles are needed for each new configuration, the cat sniffs the cake: “This seems to be made of dog biscuits,” and the higher mathematics are put on the back burner while some sheer tomfoolery comes to the fore. This is a delightful exploration of dry humor and number-juggling, accompanied by some elegantly funny artwork. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16258-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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