A subtly instructive, satisfying, and warm family tale.


For three siblings, a stay at their grandparents’ house becomes intriguing when they decide to restore a special music box in this debut illustrated children’s book.

Ricky, 9, reckons that two weeks at his grandparents’ cabin is bound to be “pure boredom” since it lacks video games, TV, or the internet. His teenage sister, Sarah, and 6-year-old brother, David, agree, but they have no choice. The first week with their grandparents actually goes pretty well. As Ricky says, “Luckily, I love them a lot”; then there are Gran’s cookies and things to do around the cabin, like fishing, exploring, and splashing in the creek. When the second week begins, Grandpa asks for help cleaning out the barn. Sarah finds a faded old music box that doesn’t work anymore. It had belonged to their mother, a moving-away present from her best friend, and meant a lot to her. Ricky gets the idea to fix it, and though the others are reluctant—he has a habit of not finishing what he starts—they get on board. With Grandpa’s help, they make a plan and carry it through together, sanding, staining, painting, cleaning, oiling, and rebuilding. Ricky perseveres to find the last piece needed to make the music box work. Their mother is delighted, and Ricky understands how great it feels to complete an endeavor and see that it matters. The Dales, who appear on the History Channel show American Restoration, know something about fixing up old objects, which they use to good effect. The book, written with Shaw, is especially strong in showing all the steps involved, giving kids a realistic sense of how to break down a project into manageable chunks. Everyone has a chance to be involved and brings different strengths; Sarah, for example, who has experience working on her bike, is given the task of taking apart the box’s gears, cleaning, and oiling them. The box’s importance to the kids’ mother is an effective undercurrent, as is Ricky’s growth in learning how to follow an enterprise through from start to finish. Allen’s full-color, amusing images show members of a Caucasian family whose vivid facial expressions help define their personalities.

A subtly instructive, satisfying, and warm family tale.

Pub Date: May 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-23353-5

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Bookin It

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

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Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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