CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH

AMERICAN WOMEN OF MYTH, LEGEND, AND TALL TALE

A frequent author retells old stories and, in effect, fashions new ones to fill a void that—he says in his preface—he deplores. Arranged geographically from northeast to west (including Alaska and Hawaii), these 15 tales of clever, strong- willed, or larger-than-life women represent several cultures- -Anglo-, Native-, African-, and Mexican-American. Introductory remarks discuss locale or culture or note parallels in world folklore. The results are entertaining and often tellable. Yet San Souci alters stories to suit his purpose: e.g., the woman he calls ``Old Sally Cato'' is unnamed in his Missouri source, while the male giant she kills was ``Bally Sally Cato''; even the African-American connection seems tenuous. Compared to one cited source, ``Annie Christmas'' is cleaned up almost beyond recognition. Neither is the subtitle quite accurate: two protagonists are sisters under the fur. And while the animal tales enhance ethnicity (``Sister Fox...'' is the only Mexican American tale), they have a mean-spirited tone not found in the others. Detailed notes give clues to how much San Souci has embellished, rather than ``collected,'' here; Pinkney's handsome b&w scratchboard illustrations and a spacious layout give the book a distinguished look. As they stand, the stories are useful; but it would be more honest to explain the rationale for the substantial revisions. Brief introduction by Jane Yolen; map; bibliography. (Folklore. 8+)

Pub Date: April 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-399-21987-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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