A WIZARD IN LOVE

Don’t be misled by the flowers on the title page: The story opens to present Hector, a retired wizard, and Poison, his cat, lying on a crumby (as in cookies) bed in a disheveled blue room. Hector and his cat look pretty spiky and edgy, especially when they are awakened by a dreadful sound. It comes from the newly painted house across the way; a peek through the window reveals a woman playing a piano and singing in a lovely voice. This “infernal racket” sends Hector to his spells, and he makes an “evil cake” to bring over (although Poison accidentally turns into a dragon first). But when he does, Isobel and her pretty voice melt his heart: He’s in love. Lafrance’s whimsical illustrations make the most of the contrast between the worlds, varying palette accordingly, winding in iconic images of evil (bats, carnivorous plants) and good (doves, flowers) and posing Hector’s stumpy roundness against Isobel’s stately height. Both verbally and visually entirely funny—the swooning evil cake is a sight to behold—this offbeat import is a sophisticated treat. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-88776-901-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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ELIZABETI'S DOLL

Charmed by her new baby brother, Elizabeti decides that she wants a baby of her own; she picks up a smooth rock, names it Eva and washes, feeds, and changes her, and carries her about in her cloth kanga. Hale dresses Elizabeti and her family in modern, brightly patterned clothing that practically glows against the earth-toned, sketchily defined Tanzanian village in which this is set. Although Eva appears a bit too large for Elizabeti to handle as easily as she does, the illustrations reflect the story’s simplicity; accompanied by an attentive hen, Elizabeti follows her indulgent mother about, mimicking each nurturing activity. The object of Elizabeti’s affection may be peculiar, but the love itself is real. Later, she rescues Eva from the fire pit, tenderly cleans her, then cradles the stone until she—Elizabeti—falls asleep. Stuve-Bodeen’s debut is quirky but believable, lightly dusted with cultural detail, and features universal emotions in an unusual setting. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-880000-70-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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