THE TWINS AND THE BIRD OF DARKNESS

A HERO TALE FROM THE CARIBBEAN

San Souci (The Birds of Killingworth, p. 572, etc.), one of the premier promoters of the folkloric tradition, always provides a careful author’s note detailing the origins of his stories, several of which have recently come from the Caribbean. This tale comes from Guadeloupe and the author states that it “is composited in the main from thirteen variant tales” collected by Elsie Clews Parsons as well as other tales by Philip Sherlock and Lafcadio Hearn. San Souci also mentions that the story has European roots. The motifs in the story, the good brother and the evil brother; the princess who has to be rescued, and the slaying of a monster with the help of magic, are all common enough in many cultures and usually make for an exciting story. The text has its dramatic high points, but unfortunately, the narrative is undermined by the illustrations. With the exaggeration and cartoon-like style of Widener’s (If the Shoe Fits, p. 189, etc.) paintings, this hero tale seems less than heroic. Sure, the princess is rescued, but the beads of sweat all over the hero’s body, when he tries to get out of the ravine into which he has fallen, look like a grade-B comic book. The large eyes and round heads of the characters have a silly, almost stereotypical look that just doesn’t work with this type of serious traditional tale. The clothing and the palace do not belong in the Caribbean. Only when the Bird of Darkness with its seven rainbow-colored heads appears, does the book reverberate with any real power. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-83343-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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DONAVAN'S WORD JAR

Donavan's friends collect buttons and marbles, but he collects words. ``NUTRITION,'' ``BALLYHOO,'' ``ABRACADABRA''—these and other words are safely stored on slips of paper in a jar. As it fills, Donavan sees a storage problem developing and, after soliciting advice from his teacher and family, solves it himself: Visiting his grandma at a senior citizens' apartment house, he settles a tenants' argument by pulling the word ``COMPROMISE'' from his jar and, feeling ``as if the sun had come out inside him,'' discovers the satisfaction of giving his words away. Appealingly detailed b&w illustrations depict Donavan and his grandma as African-Americans. This Baltimore librarian's first book is sure to whet readers' appetites for words, and may even start them on their own savory collections. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-020190-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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