THE FEATHER MERCHANTS

AND OTHER TALES OF THE FOOLS OF CHELM

The author of The Adventures of High John the Conqueror (1989) turns to his Jewish heritage for an entertaining collection of nonsense stories, organized into a sort of history of Chelm and an introduction to its foolish residents. Sanfield weaves tales of varying length into a continuous narrative, divided into sections centered on people or local institutions. He begins with a cordial invitation (``ENJOY! We'll talk later'') and ends with an ``Afterword'' about the stories' personal meaning for him and his bittersweet visit to Eastern Europe to research them. Written in an informally discursive style, the stories themselves vary from anecdote to fully realized folktale, all melded into a satisfying whole. Magaril, a Russian illustrator whose work will be new to Americans, uses pen drawings in a bold, sophisticated, woodcut-like style that preserves the folkloric feel. A satisfying accompaniment to I. B. Singer's fine stories about Chelm. Glossary; excellent bibliography. (Folklore. 8+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-531-05958-8

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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ESPERANZA RISING

The author of Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride (1999) and Riding Freedom (1997) again approaches historical fiction, this time using her own grandmother as source material. In 1930, Esperanza lives a privileged life on a ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. But when her father dies, the post-Revolutionary culture and politics force her to leave with her mother for California. Now they are indebted to the family who previously worked for them, for securing them work on a farm in the San Joaquin valley. Esperanza balks at her new situation, but eventually becomes as accustomed to it as she was in her previous home, and comes to realize that she is still relatively privileged to be on a year-round farm with a strong community. She sees migrant workers forced from their jobs by families arriving from the Dust Bowl, and camps of strikers—many of them US citizens—deported in the “voluntary repatriation” that sent at least 450,000 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans back to Mexico in the early 1930s. Ryan’s narrative has an epic tone, characters that develop little and predictably, and a romantic patina that often undercuts the harshness of her story. But her style is engaging, her characters appealing, and her story is one that—though a deep-rooted part of the history of California, the Depression, and thus the nation—is little heard in children’s fiction. It bears telling to a wider audience. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-12041-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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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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