THE LION AND THE STOAT

Three sneaky episodes in the competitive life of rival artists, a lion and a stoat—and a showcase for the elegant wit of author/illustrator Zelinsky (who displays the assurance here of a much older pro). We first meet the pair as, lion in top hat and tails, stoat in scarf and beret, each critically studies a painting by the other (great-art spoofs) at the local museum—where the observant child will not only take in the rivalry at a glance (from the artists' posturings), but also spot the amusing details that Zelinsky distributes sparingly (and all the more tellingly) in his spacious compositions. Episode I has the lion and the stoat agree to a painting contest, at the marketplace. When birds peck at the lion's painted grapes, he claims victory—and challenges the stoat to unveil his painting. "There is no curtain," says the stoat. "Your still life may have fooled the birds, but my painting has fooled you." Episode II is not a guffaw, it's a gasp. (Both, we're told, are from Pliny.) Alone in the stoat's studio, the lion leaves a message—"a very thin, straight line across the middle of the canvas." The stoat, returning, leaves a message in turn—in a different color, "another, even thinner line over the one the lion had made." The lion, coming back, pronounces the result "not had." But it's his third line, "so thin it was almost invisible," that decides this second contest—as we see the stoat rushing to congratulate the lion at his sidewalk-cafe dinner. (Slightly Gallic or Pène-du-Bois-ish, yes; whimsical or satiric, not really.) Episode III finds each painting a picture, again in competition, for the new Town Hall—and both painting self-portraits. The mayor, disconcerted, has no choice but to hang both. Meanwhile the two artists, agreeing no-more-contests, head for lunch—and a game of tic-tac-toe on the checked tablecloth. Affectionate and sparkling.

Pub Date: March 1, 1984

ISBN: 0688025625

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1984

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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