Mr. Lincoln, the African-American school principal is considered “just plain cool” and is loved by all the students—except Eugene Esterhause. “Mean Gene” is a bully who uses racial epithets he has learned from his bigoted father. Mr. Lincoln is determined to reach Eugene and affect a change in his thinking and behavior. When he discovers that Eugene has learned a great deal about nature from his kind grandfather, he enlists Eugene’s help in managing the school’s new atrium. They become deeply involved with the birds, especially a pair of mallards that have nested there. Along the way, Mr. Lincoln tries to teach the troubled child about acceptance and respect of all his “little birds,” both feathered and human. When the ducklings hatch, Eugene and Mr. Lincoln lead them safely to the pond where their parents await. Polacco (Betty Doll, p. 264, etc.) is a master at telling moving stories that gently teach lessons of kindness, compassion, and love. This newest work is only slightly less successful. It is certainly visually appealing, with colorful, expressive illustrations that beautifully enhance the text. Personalities and changing moods are vividly presented in Polacco’s signature style. The story, however, seems a bit contrived and derivative. It’s a little of Make Way for Ducklings meets To Sir with Love. In fact, endpapers that show a grown Gene Esterhause, now a teacher, indicating there might be more to the story as indeed the flap copy reveals that Polacco based her setting on a school where the ducks and atrium do exist. With that in mind, it is still a sweet story about learning to respect oneself and others, and is well worth the reader’s attention. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23754-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001


Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000


Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your dreads! Isadora once again plies her hand using colorful, textured collages to depict her fourth fairy tale relocated to Africa. The narrative follows the basic story line: Taken by an evil sorceress at birth, Rapunzel is imprisoned in a tower; Rapunzel and the prince “get married” in the tower and she gets pregnant. The sorceress cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and tricks the prince, who throws himself from the tower and is blinded by thorns. The terse ending states: “The prince led Rapunzel and their twins to his kingdom, where they were received with great joy and lived happily every after.” Facial features, clothing, dreadlocks, vultures and the prince riding a zebra convey a generic African setting, but at times, the mixture of patterns and textures obfuscates the scenes. The textile and grain characteristic of the hewn art lacks the elegant romance of Zelinksy’s Caldecott version. Not a first purchase, but useful in comparing renditions to incorporate a multicultural aspect. (Picture book/fairy tale. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-399-24772-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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