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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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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