Here is Kate Tranter coming home from school in the January dusk—the first to come, because she is the youngest of her family." With that plain, brisk, insinuating opening—the introduction, also, to the occupied house "with no lit window"—there begins a child's searing initiation into adult secrets, cruelty, shame: Philippa Pearce's most ambitious book since the unforgettable Tom's Midnight Garden. Kate, an inward child (about ten) attached to her cat Syrup, believes her father to have drowned the night she was born and to be buried in the churchyard. Then the headstone disappears, and Kate learns that unknown "Uncle Bob" was the Alfred on the headstone—and her own father, Frederick, has just recently died: the message in dour Granny Randall's mysterious letter. From oldest brother Ran—once fond, now secretive too—she has heard of "something awful" that happened, about the time Dad supposedly died, on also-unknown "Sattin Shore." A bicycle trip there—a spot on the estuary, next-older brother Lenny knows—is exhausting, unnerving. (What about the cryptic old woman, looking at Kate so curiously, mumbling about drowning? What was the man with the binoculars doing?) At home, mystery crowds upon mystery, distress upon distress. "The eyes of a stranger"—with a face like Ran's—"looked at her from over her shoulder, from the dim depths of the mirror." Syrup disappears, then reappears in the loft under the roof. (Could feeble Granny Randall really have gone up there? Why?) The resolution will not only Explain All, it will (as you'll have guessed) restore Kate's Dad to the family, much chastened (he disappeared after circumstantial implication in Bob's drowning), and leave Kate, who has been fierce beyond pluck or spunk, content to look forward—"to her birthday in July, and the great good changes that were promised." The mystery is a cover, of sorts, for emotional and psychological baring that would otherwise be too much.

Pub Date: April 9, 1984

ISBN: 0192792407

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1984

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


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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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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