THE MAGIC CORNFIELD

Willard (The Good-Night Blessing Book, 1996, etc.), in something of a creative risk, combines assemblages of US postage stamps with photographed tableaux of dolls, angels, and ``sculptures and other oddities'' (according to the copyright page) to illustrate this epistolary tale of a wildly errant traveler. When his car breaks down, Tottem Perhaps wanders into a trackless cornfield, precipitating a series of odd adventures and encounters—all of which he reports to his cousin Bottom on hand- written, appropriately stamped-and-canceled post cards. Eventually arrested in ``Hat Creek, CA'' for not wearing a hat, and jailed in ``Truth Or Consequences, NM,'' Tottem floats to ``Wise River, MT,'' then passes through other actual towns before finding the cornfield's edge at last near ``Happy, TX.'' Sharp-eyed readers will chuckle over the Ethel Waters stamp among the Wise River note's waterfowl, Babe Ruth and a fishing fly called ``Lefty's Deceiver'' used to post the card from ``Left Hand, WV,'' and a squad of smiling faces from Happy. This witty travelogue makes a natural companion to Vera B. Williams's Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea (1988). (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201428-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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