Enjoyably old-fashioned tales with charm, wit, and an appreciation of kindness.



From the Stories from Squirrel Hill series , Vol. 2

An elephant searches for a hat to make him special and a cat meets a bird missing his head feathers in these two read-aloud children’s stories.

Squirrel Hill (not the Pittsburgh neighborhood) is a farmhouse in the country. Madison, the young girl who lives there, has several walking, talking plush-toy animals. Other farmyard and wild animals also speak and behave in some human ways. In “Just an Ordinary Elephant,” Perfesser is a self-important goose who proclaims that there’s nothing special about Ellie, a stuffed elephant, because he’s unlike African elephants, who have ears that “always stick straight out….And they always wear straw hats.” Ellie overhears this and—his dignity wounded—decides he must emulate African elephants. Though Madison knows that Ellie is indeed special, being polite, kind, and generous, he’ll have to learn this for himself. In “The Bald Cardinal,” the cat Kitty certainly doesn’t lack confidence, knowing herself to be “brainy, gorgeous, and curious.” She meets a bald cardinal whose condition is a problem: “I cannot find anyone who will talk with me without staring at my head and tweeting all their friends.” But Kitty reassures him he’s very handsome, “and…when he really thought about it, a cat should know.” Though Kitty, like Ellie, performs a kind act, she decides—catlike—to keep it to herself and to never do it again. Clark (Crossing Briar Woo, 2018, etc.) follows up his first outing in this series with two tales (aimed at children ages 4 to 7) that are less focused on Madison and more on the animal denizens of Squirrel Hill. Each one has something to say about self-acceptance, but neither is overly preachy. Instead, gentle humor and good characterization make for amusing scenarios, as when Ellie, offered assistance by Esther Marie Rabbit, “did not say ‘thank you.’ He was trying very hard to be special and he forgot.” The second story is slighter, but Kitty’s zest enlivens it. Driver’s (Crossing Briar Woo, 2018, etc.) attractively detailed pencil-and-wash illustrations bring out the characters’ expressions and personalities, skillfully distinguishing between real and stuffed animals.

Enjoyably old-fashioned tales with charm, wit, and an appreciation of kindness.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72323-089-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Ozymandias Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This companion piece to the other fairy tales Marcia Brown has interpreted (see Puss In Boots, 1952, p. 548 and others) has the smoothness of a good translation and a unique charm to her feathery light pictures. The pictures have been done in sunset colors and the spreads on each page as they illustrate the story have the cumulative effect of soft cloud banks. Gentle.

Pub Date: June 15, 1954

ISBN: 0684126761

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1954

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The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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