This Arctic spin on a familiar folkloric theme, while uneven, offers a glimpse of a landscape too little seen in children’s...

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THE OWL AND THE LEMMING

Pride goeth before the fall. Or, in this case, the leap.

An Inuit folk tale is given a tiny update in this picture-book adaptation. Spring has arrived, and a young lemming’s thoughts turn to the tasty moss outside her burrow. Alas, no sooner has she started munching than an equally hungry snowy owl blocks her home’s entrance. The lemming must outwit the bird, but early efforts get nowhere. For example, asking the owl to simply spread its legs and redirect its gaze falls flat. (“No way! I am not stupid!” says the owl.) Next the lemming tries entreating the owl to wait for plumper prey. No go. Finally, she hits on the best solution, challenging the owl to a leaping contest. There’s a fine tradition of stories involving prey outwitting their predators. In this case, the lemming is remarkable for failing so miserably to trick her hunter before finally hitting on the best solution, and the owl is equally remarkable for its patience. While the dialogue is smart and snappy (this version of the story began life as a film), the interstitial narrative is less lively. Mixed-media art portrays both the lemming and the owl (to a lesser degree) as cartoonish figures. Fortunately background photographs of the Arctic tundra vistas more than make up for what these figures lack.

This Arctic spin on a familiar folkloric theme, while uneven, offers a glimpse of a landscape too little seen in children’s books. (Picture book/folklore. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-7722-7120-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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