CATHERINE CERTITUDE

Not for every child, and, indeed, not for every adult. It’s not exactly as if Dostoyevsky had turned to writing Mother Goose...

A beguiling children’s story—well, after a fashion, anyway—by the latest winner of the Nobel Prize in literature (Suspended Sentences, 2014, etc.).

Catherine Certitude—the French rings with the rounded “u,” bespeaking confidence and joie de vivre—is a 40-something grown-up as the story opens, the owner of a dance studio in New York who, in a moment of daydreaming wistfulness, looks back on her odd life. “We’re nobody special,” she says, “just New Yorkers, like so many others.” Very well: but why did the erstwhile resident of the 10th Arrondissement leave the comforting shadow of the Gare du Nord for Greenwich Village? Chalk that up to Papa, master of the carefully weighed shipment and the carefully measured advantage. What was it that Papa did in that big warehouse with the never forthcoming Mister Casterade, “The Pill,” as Papa called him? Papa owes Casterade, we learn, who reminds him, loudly, “Georges, you should remember that your real friends are the ones who save you from the clutches of the law.” The implication is that Papa, who says only that he is in “the package business,” is doing something he ought not to be doing, which might explain the family’s hasty departure. But, as ever with a Modiano story, other, darker possibilities always lurk at the edges of the story. The superficiality of Catherine’s understanding is hinted at by the great illustrator Sempé’s drawings, which have a carefree, untroubled quality even in those moments when they admit shadows. Whatever the case, Modiano, an heir of existentialism who lacks the pessimism of his forerunners, serves up something of a happy ending even as the mystery comes to embrace Catherine’s cloistered world of dance. At least, on leaving the story, we’re treated to the happy vision of Papa cutting another deal that’s shady enough to make Mama want to split....

Not for every child, and, indeed, not for every adult. It’s not exactly as if Dostoyevsky had turned to writing Mother Goose rhymes, but the darkness is there—and so is the brilliance.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 978-0-87923-959-6

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR BOOK

From the Who's in Your Book? series

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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