WINGWALKER

This big-hearted, Depression-era, American fairy tale seems to come alive out of a former generation like a well-worn family yarn. Reuben’s perfect childhood in Oklahoma disintegrates with the arrival of the Dust Bowl that deprives his parents of their jobs. This presents his father, a teacher of ballroom dance, with a thrilling opportunity to become a “wingwalker” with a traveling county fair, an opportunity that his wife strongly opposes. Physically small, Reuben himself has a reputation for being a bit of a sissy whose nickname is “shrimp-boats.” He can barely stand to watch his father execute his ballroom steps on the plane wing, let alone think of accompanying him. But the folks of the fair take Reuben to their hearts and give him encouragement. When his father wants to take Reuben up on the wing with him, the Human Snake advises, “Hold your father’s hand.” This enables the boy to stand hand-in-hand in the air with his proud father. Wells’s prose is spare but has both richness and freshness of simile and image, e.g., “a drilling rig pumping away like a big iron grasshopper.” If some details (the purchase of a new Studebaker) strain credibility, it is true to a form in which repeated telling establishes confidence in the rightness of a story. Selznick has a lock on the iconography of history as it intersects with dreams. As if keeping a promise to the story’s symbolic metaphor, his paintings are full of sky, airplanes, and upward-looking faces. Handsomely designed, the glossy stock and neat, consistent framing lend serenity and a sense of looking into stopped moments in a vintage album. A small disappointment is the final painting, to which readers will turn eagerly, and which depicts the father, not in his trademark “best black suit,” but in far less dapper attire. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0397-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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THE STONE OF FIRE

From the Cavemice series , Vol. 1

Warp back in time for a prehistoric spinoff adventure with Geronimo Stilton’s ancestor, Geronimo Stiltonoot, in Old Mouse City.

Readers will find Geronimo Stiltonoot a familiar character, outfitted differently from descendant Stilton yet still running a newspaper and having wild adventures. In this introduction to prehistoric mouse life, someone has stolen the most powerful and important artifact housed by the Old Mouse City Mouseum: the Stone of Fire. It’s up to Stiltonoot and his fellow sleuth and friend, Hercule Poirat, to uncover not only the theft, but a dangerous plot that jeopardizes all of Old Mouse City. As stand-ins for the rest of the Stilton cast, Stiltonoot has in common with Stilton a cousin named Trap, a sister named Thea and a nephew named Benjamin. The slapstick comedy and design, busy with type changes and color, will be familiar for Stilton readers. The world is fictionalized for comedic effect, featuring funny uses for dinosaurs and cheeky references to how far back in time they are, with only the occasional sidebar that presents facts. The story takes a bit long to get started, spending a lot of time reiterating the worldbuilding information laid out before the first chapter. But once it does start, it is an adventure Stilton readers will enjoy. Geronimo Stiltonoot has the right combination of familiarity and newness to satisfy Stilton fans. (Fiction. 6-10)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-44774-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS

Fact and fiction dovetail neatly in this tale of a wonderfully resolute child who finds a memorable way to convince her father that the newly-finished Brooklyn Bridge is safe to cross. Having watched the great bridge going up for most of her young life, Hannah is eager to walk it, but despite repeated, fact-laced appeals to reason (and Hannah is a positive fount of information about its materials and design), her father won’t be moved: “No little girl of mine will cross that metal monster!” Hannah finally hatches a far-fetched plan to convince him once and for all; can she persuade the renowned P.T. Barnum to march his corps of elephants across? She can, and does (actually, he was already planning to do it). Pham places Hannah, radiating sturdy confidence, within sepia-toned, exactly rendered period scenes that capture both the grandeur of the bridge in its various stages of construction, and the range of expressions on the faces of onlookers during its opening ceremonies and after. Readers will applaud Hannah’s polite persistence. (afterword, resources) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-87011-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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