THE ELEPHANT QUILT

STITCH BY STITCH TO CALIFORNIA!

Inspired by an actual quilt and armloads of memoirs, this account of an 1859 journey along the Santa Fe Trail bubbles over with verbal and visual vim. “I’m sewing to California!” proclaims young Lily Rose, needle in hand, as she and her Grandma make records on cloth about the mountains, storms, flora and fauna, a new baby and other milestones of their “BO-dacious” wagon trip. The trail also brings encounters with friendly groups of Apache and Pima. With a look and exuberance reminiscent of Patricia Polacco’s art, Dressen-McQueen’s painted scenes feature fine fabric patterns and stitchery, along with stylized figures high-stepping, nestling cozily together and eventually gathering around in a festive bee beneath California oranges to assemble the pieces of Lily Rose’s quilt. The “elephant” of the title refers to a 19th-century catchphrase about having, as Lowell puts it, “the thrill, or shock, of a lifetime,” and is also used (in a far more somber sense) in Pat Hughes’s Seeing the Elephant: A Story of the Civil War (2007), illustrated by Ken Stark. This iteration of the popular “wagons-west” theme kicks the energy level up a notch above the usual. (afterword, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-38223-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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I WANNA IGUANA

In epistolary dialogue with his mom, a lad yearning for an iguana tries various approaches, from logic and sweet talk to emotional blackmail. His mother puts up a valiant defense—“Dear Mom: Did you know that iguanas are really quiet and they’re cute too. I think they are much cuter than hamsters. Love, your adorable son, Alex.” “Dear Alex: Tarantulas are quiet too”—before ultimately capitulating. Catrow’s scribbly, lurid, purple-and-green illustrations bring the diverse visions of parent and child to hilarious life, as a lizard of decidedly indeterminate ancestry grows in stages to the size of a horse, all the while exhibiting a doglike affection toward its balloon-headed prospective keeper—who is last seen posed by a new terrarium, pumping a fist in victory. A familiar domestic interchange, played out with broad comedy—and mutual respect, too. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23717-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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