GERGIE LEE

Most main characters speak but in this delightfully charming story about J.D.’s summer on his Grandmother’s farm, the title player moos—Georgie Lee is a cow, and a right smart one at that. The opening chapter establishes the ambience when J.D. and Grandmother can’t understand why, on such a hot day, Georgie Lee is standing absolutely still in the cool creek. As they watch, little fish school under the cow’s spotted belly and, one by one, jump up and catch the flies crawling on her. When all the flies are gone, the full fish swim back to their hiding place, Georgie Lee has a long, cool drink and smiles as she heads back to her grass hill. The cleverly subtle writing meshes details and dialogue with homespun flair as in the incident when Grandmother climbs a tree to join J.D. and can’t get down. J.D. asks, “Did you ever see a cow up a tree?” Grandmother answers, “Not yet.” And sure enough, at the end of the story, there’s Georgie Lee, amidst tree branches. The delicate black-and-white drawings softly accentuate the episodes of symbiotic relationships between animals and people. “Why do tumblebugs make balls out of cow manure?” J.D. asked. In her unflappable wisdom, Grandmother answers, “Ever try rolling something that’s not round?” Country and city kids alike will grin over the trio’s encounters with a haunted house, a neighborhood goat, a giant catfish, and a huge storm in this deceptively simple first chapter book. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-17940-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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