SPARROW GIRL

In this sober tale based on Mao Zedong’s 1958 edict to eradicate China’s sparrows to prevent crop damage, a compassionate little girl follows her heart instead of her Leader. When Ming-Li learns of Mao’s plan to eliminate the sparrows by creating noise for three consecutive days, she prophetically fears the terrible din will kill all birds. As mindless mobs beat drums, clang gongs, crash cymbals and explode firecrackers, Ming-Li’s worst fears are realized, but not before she hides seven sparrows, which she feeds and tends in secret. When spring arrives and shocked farmers watch helplessly as locusts decimate their crops, Ming-Li reveals her secret and saves her village from famine. Tanaka’s quiet, simple illustrations in subdued tones match the somber mood. In her red suit, Ming-Li’s solitary figure stands out from the villagers in their uniform blue jackets, reinforcing her individuality. Moving images, such as a double-page spread of dead sparrows falling like “teardrops” while a weeping Ming-Li cradles a limp bird, send a powerful message that one small person can make a big difference. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4231-1187-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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LIBRARY LION

Knudsen and Hawkes pick a perfect setting to express the idea that breaking rules can sometimes be a good thing. When a lion wanders into a small town public library the Head Librarian, Miss Merriweather, brushes off the protestations of her realistically officious colleague Mr. McBee and allows it to stay—so long as it keeps quiet, doesn’t run and makes itself useful cleaning books and licking envelopes while waiting for storytime to begin. Anxious-looking patrons of all ages quickly become accepting ones in Hawkes’s soft toned watercolors, and if Miss Merriweather’s hair and dress seem a bit stereotypical, occasional CRT monitors balance glimpses of rubber date stamps and a card catalog in his gracious, old style interiors. When Miss Merriweather takes a fall, the lion roars to attract help, then slinks out in shame—but McBee redeems himself by bustling out into the rain to inform the offender that Exceptions to the Rules are sometimes allowed. Consider this a less prescriptive alternative to Eric A. Kimmel’s I Took My Frog to the Library (1990), illustrated by Blanche Sims—and it doesn’t hurt that the maned visitor is as huge and friendly looking as the one in James Daugherty’s classic Andy and the Lion. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-2262-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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